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Sebastian P. Brock 









AUGUST 1997 







Sebastian Peter Brock 

First published: 
August 1997 

Published by: 

St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute 
Baker Hill, Kottayam - 686 001 
Kerala, India 

Printed at: 

Deepika Offset Printers, 

Sastri Road, Kottayam - 1 

The second, fourth and sixth numbers of MORAN ETHO 
were from the erudite pen of the great Syriac scholar of Oxford, 
Prof.Sebasiian P.Brock. The present volume is one more most 
welcome contribution by him. It gives an opportunity to the 
English speaking world, to become aware of the immense wealth 
of literature in the Syriac language. The contents include brief 
biographies of Syriac authors, a list of their published and yet to 
be published writings, as well as selections from some of these. 
Thus, the interested scholar or student is enabled to have a glimpse 
of the treasurers he can profit from. 

The publication of this volume is at a most opportune time. 
SEERI (St, Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute) has started 
the M.A. course in Syriac language and literature under the 
Mahatma Gandhi University at Kottayam, Kerala. The students 
who have joined this course will find the present volume, most 

Prof. Brock draws attention to a large volume of writings 
in Syriac yet to be published. The scholars who do their re- 
search for the Ph.D. in Syriac in the M.G.University can profit- 
ably study such writings and make them available to the world at 

SEERI is very grateful to Prof. Brock for having entrusted 
the publication of this work as another number of MORAN 
ETHO. It is quite in consonance with his constant interest in the 
activities and progress of this institution. 


This outline of Syriac literature aims to provide no more than 
an initial orientation to the subject. The number of authors and 
writings covered has deliberately been limited to the more impor- 
tant (or, in some cases, the more accessible); furthermore, although 
it is emphasised that the history of Syriac literature is a continuous 
one up to the present day, the focus of this outline has been on the 
period up to the early 14th century. The reasons for these limita- 
tions arc largely practical ones: Syriac literature of the period up to 
c, 1 300 is often of particular significance and importance, and ac- 
cordingly the editing of S*riac texts has largely been confined to 
authors of this period; but it should be noted that even here many 
important works remain unpublished, and reference has on occa- 
sion been made to these. On the whole, however, the writers se- 
lected and the works specifically mentioned in Section III are for 
the most part confined to those which are available in published 
form; within this section the most important authors are indicated 
with an asterisk (*). Indication is also given of the availability of 
an English translation (and/or, on occasion, to translations into other 
modern European languages): thus ET = English translation, FT = 
French tr„ GT = German tr. etc.; details of these can be found in 
Section VL In Section IV preliminary guidance is given to cer- 
tain specific topics. Some indication of the very large number of 
texts translated into Syriac is given in Section V. In order to give 
the reader a first impression of the variety to be found within Syriac 
literature, a small selection of short samples has been provided in 
Section VII . Finally, some basic guidance for further reading will 
be found in Section VIII. 

- ' ■'■■>» 



Preface Page 

I. A Bird's Eye View: the Main Periods 7 

II. Secular and Ecclesiastical B ackground 8 

(a) Periods A-C (2nd-7th cent.) 8 

(b) Periods D-F (7th-20th cent.) 10 

m. The Six Main Periods 13 

A. lst-3rd centuries 13 

B. 4th century 19 

C. 5th to mid 7th century 30 

(a) 5th cent. 30 

(b) 5tfi/6th cent 37 

(c) 6th cent. 42 

(d) 6th/7th cent. 48 

D. Mid 7th to end 13th century 53 

(a) second half 7th cent. 53 

(b) 7th/8thcent 57 

(c) 8th cent 60 

(d) 8th/9th cent. 63 

(e) 9th cent. 65 

(f) 10th cent. 70 

(g) 11th cent. 71 

(h) 12th cent. 72 

(i) 13th cent 73 






E. 14th to 19th century 82 

F. 20th century 83 

Appendix: Chronological List (periods A-D) 84 

Particular Topics 88 

(a) Bible 88 

(b) Exegesis 93 

(c) Liturgy 95 

(d) Canon Law 98 

[(e) Monastic literature 102 

[(f) Chronicles 110 

[(g) Secular literature 113 

Translations into Syriac 120 

Summary Guide to English Translations 123 

Sample Passages f"rom some 

more important Writings; 144 

Translations into Syriac 284 

Select Bibliography 292 

Index of Names (to III) 309 

• - 



Syriac began as the local Aramaic dialect of Edessa (Urhay, 
modern Urfa in SE Turkey), with its own script, first attested in 
inscriptions of the first century AD. It must have been adopted as 
the literary language of Aramaic-speaking Christianity at an early 
date, and as a result of this its use spread rapidly along with the 
spread of Christianity in the eastern provinces of the Roman Em- 
pire and in the Persian Empire further east. Syriac is in fact one of- 
three Late Aramaic dialects winch came to produce large surviving 
literatures, the other two being Jewish Aramaic and Mandaean; both 
in literary quality and in quantity Syriac easily surpasses these other 
two large Aramaic literatures. 

Syriac literature covers from the second to the twentieth 
century AD. This long span of time can conveniently be broken up 
into six main periods: 

A. The earliest literature: 2nd-3rd century AD. 

B. Aphrahat, Ephrem, and other fourth-century writings. 

C. Fifth to mid seventh century. 

D. Mid seventh to end of the thirteenth century. 

E. Fourteenth to nineteenth century. . 

F. Twentieth century. 

Of these six periods, B-D (4th- 13th cent.) provide the most 
extensive and most important literature. 





(a) Periods A-C (2nd-7th cent.) belong to the time when Syriac 
writers were living either under the Roman Empire or under the 
Persian Empire (Parthians up to AD 226; Sasanians from "6 - 
640). Syriac writers living under the Roman Empire (increasingly 
Christian from the fourth century onwards) mostly came from wliat 
is now SE Turkey and Syria; those living under the Zoroastrian 
Persian Empire were from modern Iraq, Iran and the Gull" States 
Under the early Sasanians there were intermittent persecutions of 
Christians, mostly at tin&s of war with the Roman Empire' the 
most serious of these were under Shapur II in the mid 4th century 
By the 6th century Christianity had become a recognized minority 
religion, and martyrs from that period onwards were almost all Zo- 
roastrian converts to Christianity from noble families. 

Periods A-B (2nd-4th cent.) belong to the time of the undi- 
vided Church. Anamsm was a serious threat in Ephrem's day. As 
a result of the christological controversies of the 5th century Syriac- 
speaking Christianity was divided into three ecclesiastical bodies- 
(1) the Church of the East (almost entirely in the Persian Empire' 
with a Cathohcos Patriarch at Seleucia-Ctesiphon), which followed 
the strict Antiochene or dyophysite (two-nature) Ch.istology advo- 
cated by Theodore of Mopsuestia; (2) those who (along with the 
Greek and all the Western Churches) accepted the christological 
formula of the Council of Chalcedon (J451); these in the course of 
the 7th century emerged as two. separate bodies, each under a differ- 
ent Patriarch of Antioch, namely the Melkites and the Maronites- 
and (3) the Syrian Orthodox, who (along with the Armenian Coptic 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
and Ethiopian Orthodox) rejected the Council of Chalcedon, and 
followed the Alexandrine or miaphysite (one-nature) Christology 
based on the teaching of Cyril of Alexandria. (The terms 'Nestorian' 
for the first group, and 'Monophysite' (or 'Jacobite') for the third 
group are seriously misleading, and should be avoided). 

It should be noted that the 'ecumenical* councils of this pe- 
riod were councils convened by the Roman emperor, and so ap- 
plied only within the Roman Empire (though they might subse- 
quently be received outside it, as happened with the Council of 
Nicaea (325) which was officially accepted by the Church in the 
Persian Empire at a synod in 410). 

The most important centres for Syriac literature were (in 
the Roman Empire): Edessa (modern Urfa), Nisibis (until 363), 
Serugh, Amid (modern Diyarbekir), Mabbug; by the sixth century 
there were a large number of monasteries in (what is now) North 
Syria and SE Turkey. In the Persian Empire the main centres were: 
Seleucia-Ctesiphon, Nisibis (after 363; its School was especially 
influential in the 6th cent.), Arbela, Karka d-Beit Slokh (modern 
Kirkuk), Beth Lapat (also called Gundeshapur), Karka d-Ledan, 
Qatar. In the sixth and seventh centuries many monasteries were 
founded especially in the Nisibis area and in what is now North 

Three main formative influences can be identified in peri- 
ods A-C (2nd-7th cent.): ancient Mesopotamian (which included 
literature in earlier Aramaic dialects), biblical and Jewish, and Greek. 
The first two of these influences are most obvious in periods A-B 
(2nd-4th cent.), while the third becomes more and more dominant 
as time goes on, reaching a peak in the 7th century. Syriac Chris- 
tianity is at its most distinctive in the fourth-century writers, and it 
has its own individual ascetic and proto-monastic tradition, quite 
independent at this date from the forms of monasticism which were 
developing in Egypt at the same time. Subsequently, however, the 


Sec. & Eccl. Background 

Egyptian monastic tradition, owing to its great prestige became 
ominant in the area of Syriac Christianity * weti, 2S £S 
distinctive Synac ascetic tradition was largely forgotten. 

Cb) Periods D-F (7th-20th cent.) belong to the time of Islamic 
domination m the Middle East. 

m o ^ C, ' i0d ° (7th_1 3th CenU bel0ngS t0 the lime oU[ * Omayyads 

7th-8th century), 'Abbasids (750-c. 1 100), Seljuks (in Turkey, 1 1th/ 

2h centuries) and Mongols (from 13th century). Period E (14th- 

m cent.) belongs to the time of (successively) Mongol, Mamluk 

(along with other local dynasties), and Ottoman rule in Western 

Asia, and opened with a lime of great devastation and destruction 

hrough war and then the Black Death. Period F (20th cent ) be 

longs to the lime of the break up of the Ottoman Empire and the 

emergence ol the modern nation states in West Asia. 

By the time of the Arab invasions the ecclesiastical bound- 
aries between the different Christian communities had already be- 
come virtually fixed. The Syrian Orthodox and the Church of the 
East lormed (he largest of the Syriac Churches. From the 8th cen- 
tury onwards many writers of the Syriac Churches preferred to write 
m Arabic, rather than Syriac; thus there is very little Melkite and 
Maronite writing in Syriac after the 8th century, though Syriac re- 
mained the liturgical language in these Churches for much longer 
(in the Melkite Church Syriac was in a few localities used liturgfcally 
up to about the 17th century; in the Maronite Church it has Contin- 
ued to the present day, but in recent years is largely being replaced 
by Arabic). As a result of the widespread adoption of Arabic as a 
literary language especially in the Melkite and Maronite Churches 
most Syriac literature in period D (7ih-13th cent.), and all Syriac 
literature in periods E-F (14th-20th cent.) has been produced by 
wmers from the Church of the East and the Syrian Orthodox 
Churches (and, ,„ the more recent centuries, their Eastern Rite 
t-atnolic counterparts). 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Especially in the late eighth and the first half of the ninth 
century scholars from the various Syriac Churches played an im- 
portant role in the transmission of Greek philosophy and sciences 
to the Arab world through their translations and commentaries; best 
known of these scholars is Hunayn ibn Ishaq, whose normal prac- 
tice was to translate first from Greek into Syriac, and then from 
Syriac into Arabic; the reason for this seemingly cumbersome pro- 
cess was that he was able to benefit from the experience of a long 
tradition of translating such Greek texts into Syriac, while there 
was no such tradition for translating from Greek into Arabic and so 
it was easier to work from one Semitic language (Syriac) to another 
(Arabic). Many of these texts of Greek origin eventually readied 
western Europe by way of translations from Arabic into Latin made 
in Spain in the twelfth century. Syriac scholars thus form an impor- 
tant link in the chain of transmission of ancient Greek philosophy , 
and science to Western Europe. 

The Byzantine reconquest of north Syria in the late lenth 
century resulted in renewed Greek influence there, above all in the 
area of liturgy; this applied especially to the Melkite Church, but 
also, to some extent, to the Syrian Orthodox. The Crusades ( 1 096- 
1270) brought the first direct contact with the Western Church, and 
it was from this period that the Maronite Church accepted (he pri- 
macy of the Bishop of Rome. It was not until the mid 16th century 
onwards that the other Eastern Rite Catholic Churches emerged: a 
schism in the Church of the East led to the creation of an indepen- 
dent Chaldean hierarchy (1 55 1 ), while the separate Syrian Catholic 
Church emerged in the course of the second half of the 1 8th century 
(1782 marked the definite emergence of a separate hierarchy). 

In India Syriac Christianity goes back, according to a very 
ancient tradition, to St Thomas; in any case Christianity was clearly 
well established in south India at an early date, and the ecclesiasti- 
cal links were with the Church of the East, under the Catholicos 


Sec. & Eccl. Background 

Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon. Very little is known about the pre- 
Portugucse period (i.e. up to 1497) since unfortunately very few 
relevant historical documents survive. The latter part of the 1 6th 
century saw the attempt to latinize the Syiiac rite in India and the 
suppression of many traditional features of the indigenous Church 
there. In reaction to this in the mid 1 7th century a group revolted 
against European ecclesiastical domination and connections were 
established with the hierarchy of the Syrian Oithodox Church in the 
Ottoman Empire. As a result an Indian hierarchy under the Syrian 
Orthodox patriarchate came into being and the West Syrian liturgi- 
cal tradition was gradually introduced, replacing the earlier East 
Syrian tradition. Around the middle of the 19th century under the 
influence of English missionaries; a group within the Syrian Ortho- 
dox Church sought to make various reforms, and this led to the 
emergence towards the end of the century of the independent Mar 
Thoma Church, which haf the distinction of being the only 'Re- 
formed* Church of Oithodox (as opposed to Catholic) origins. 

During Period D (mid 7th - 13th century) the main centres 
of Syriac literature continued to be located in (what is now) E Tur- 
key, Syria, Iraq, and NW Iran, the Syrian Oithodox predominantly 
in SE Turkey and Syria, but also to be found in Iraq (important 
centres wereTagrit, and the Monaster of Mar Matt ai, SE of Mosul), 
and the Church of the East primarily in Iraq and NW Iran. The' 
influence of the Church of the East, in particular, stretched along trade 
routes right across Asia, and a surviving Chinese-Syriac inscription in 
Xian, dated 781 , records the arrival of Christianity in western China in 

During Period E (14th - 19th century) the Syrian Oithodox 
Church has important centres in the area of Malatya (Melitene) and 
Tur 'Abdin, as well as in northern Syria and northern Iraq; the 
Church of the East is primarily located in northern Iraq, eastern 
Turkey and NW Iran. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
The 20th century (Period F) has witnessed widespread dis- 
placements of the population of all the Syriac Churches due to war 
and (more recently) large-scale emigration to countries all over the 


A. lst-3rd CENTURIES. 

This is the most obscure period of Syriac literature. Most 
texts are anonymous, and of uncertain date and origin; only a very- 
few names of actual authors are known. The following are the 
most important works of this period: 

1*. PESHITTA OLD TESTAMENT. This was translated 
directly from Hebrew into Syriac; different books were translated 
by different people, and perhaps at different times. Probably at 
least some books were translated by Syriac-speaking Jews, and then 
taken over by the early Syriac-speaking Church; others may have 
been translated by early Jewish converts to Christianity. Certain 
books, notably the Pentateuch and Chronicles, contain isolated fea- 
tures or interpretations which are characteristic of the Tarpons (Jew- 
ish Aramaic translations of the Old Testament). Probably much of 
the Peshitta Old Testament had been translated by the end of the 
second century. Since Syriac is the local Aramaic dialect of Edessa, 
it is likely that the translation was made in Edessa, or in the region 
of Edessa. The name Peshitta is only first found in period D, when 
it was used to distinguish this traditional translation from a sev- 
enth-century translation from Greek (the Syro-hexapla). 


Six Main Periods... 

2*. The DIATESSARON, Probably the earliest form of the 
New Testament to get into Syriac was the Diatessaron, or 'harmony' 
of the four Gospels, which provided the material from all four Gos- 
pels arranged as a single narrative. The Diatessaron is lost in its 
original form, and many uncertainties surround it. It is associated 
with the name of Tatian, who came from Syria or further east, stud- 
ied in Rome under Justin Martyr, and then returned to the east c. 170. 
If he composed the Diatessaron in Rome then its original language 
is likely to have been Greek (Latin is less likely), in which case the 
lost Syriac text was a translation (and could date from considerably 
later than Tatian 's time); but if Tatian compiled it after his return to 
the east, then Syriac is likely to have been the original language in 
which it was written. At present there is insufficient evidence to 
decide between these two main possibilities. 


3 *. The OLD SYRIAC GOSPELS . Two fifth-centuiy manu- 
scripts (known as the 'Curetonian' and 'Sinaiticus') of the Gospels 
preserve the oldest surviving text of the Syriac New Testament, 
called today the 'Old Syriac' [ET]. This is a comparatively free 
translation of the four separate Gospels, making use (it seems) here 
and there of the Diatessaron. The Greek text from which it was 
translated was very archaic in character and with many interesting 
features, as a result of which the Old Syriac is a witness of great 
importance for the study of the early history of the New Testament 
text. It is not known exactly when or where the Old Syriac transla- 
tion was made: most scholars date it to the third century, but a few 
prefer the early fourth. It happens to be the earliest witness to the 
existence of the Peshitta Old Testament (or at least, specific books 
of it), since the translators used the Peshitta Old Testament text for 
quotations from the Old Testament in the Greek Gospels - even in 
cases where the Greek form of the quotation is rather different from 
that of the Peshitta Old Testament. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
4*. BARDAISAN and the Book of the Laws of the Coun- 
tries. Bardaisan is the one individual author from this period about 
whom something is known, including his exact dates (154-222). 
Bardaisan lived in Edessa and belonged to the court circles of King 
Abgar Vffl, the Great. He must have been highly educated in Greek 
as well as in Syriac, but wrote only in Syriac, and was known as 'the 
Aramaean philosopher' , Since he was a speculative thinker some 
of whose ideas (e.g. on cosmology) were later considered unortho- 
dox, his own writings have not survived, but he is known to have 
written in both prose and poetiy. The Syriac Book of the Laws of 
the Countries, which does survive [ET], is often attributed to him, 
but in fact was probably written by one of his pupils, Philip. This 
work is a philosophical dialogue (essentially a Greek literary genre) 
on the subject of Fate; the speakers are Bardaisan and his various 
disciples. In the course of the work there is a description of the 
laws (or rather, customs) of various different ethnic groups; it is 
from this section that the current title derives. The work was 
translated into Greek (where it was known as 'On Fate', and attrib- 
uted to Bardaisan himself), and is quoted both in the Clementine 
Recognitions (IX. 1 9-29) and in Eusebius' work The Preparation of 
the Gospel (VI. 10. 1-48). 

5*. ODES OF SOLOMON [ET]. A group of 42 short lyric 
poems of great beauty survive almost complete in Syriac; one of 
these is also preserved in Greek, and five in Coptic. Date, place of 
origin and original language are all uncertain: some scholars see 
them as contemporary with the latest New Testament writings, hav- 
ing strong links with the Johannine literature; others place them in 
the mid or late second century, while others again see them as coun- 
tering Manichacism, and thus belonging to the late third century 
(Mani was put to death in 276). The original language was prob- 
ably either Greek or Syriac, though Hebrew or another Aramaic dia- 
lect has also been suggested. If the Odes were written in Syriac, 
then they probably originate from the Edessa area; it should be 


Six Main Periods... 

noted, however, that they do not conform to the norms of any known 
Syriac verse form. Since the Odes of Solomon are highly allusive 
in character, it is difficult to determine the audience for which they 
were composed. Many of them evidently celebrate die liberated 
character of the baptised life in Christ (they are hardly hymns for 
the baptismal rite, as was once suggested). In several of the Odes 
the author appears to have Christ speaking in the first person, while 
in others the allusions and imagery defy any satisfactory interpreta- 

6*. The ACTS OF THOMAS [ET], There is an extensive 
apocryphal literature associated with the name of Thomas. The 
two most important works are the Gospel of Thomas (probably writ- 
ten in Syria in the second century, and known from Greek frag- 
ments and a complete Coptic translation), and the Acts of 'Judas 
Thomas', composed in Syriac probably in the third century (place 
unknown). The Acts of Thomas survive in both Syriac and an early 
Greek translation; translations into several other Oriental Christian 
languages also exist. In general character the work resembles the 
various Greek apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, which belong to the 
genre of the novella, or 'romance' (the modern equivalent would 
be the historical novel). The Acts describe the apostle Thomas's 
mission to India, and the narrative is set out in thirteen sections 
(called 'acts'), followed by the Martyrdom of Thomas. Acts I- VI 
concern his lime in North India and the conversion of king 
Gudnaphar, while Acts VTI-XIII and the Martyrdom cover his ex- 
perience at the court of king Mazdai (evidently in South India). 
The descriptions, at various points in the Acts, of the liturgical rites 
of baptism and eucharist (#25-27, 49, 121,1 32, 157) are of great 
importance for students of early Syriac liturgical history. Incorpo- 
rated into the Acts of Thomas are two famous poems which are 
probably earlier than the rest of the work; these poems are of an 
allegorical character, and are often known as the 'Hymn of the Bride' 
(#6-7) and the 'Hymn of the Pearl' (or, 'of the Soul'; ##108-13). 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
The topics of the individual acts are: I (#1-1 6), die alloca- 
tion of India to Judas Thomas, and his sale, by Christ, to Habban, a 
merchant of king Gudnaphar; on their arrival at Sandaruk they at- 
tend the wedding feast of the local king, during which Judas Tho- 
mas sings the song of the Bride of Light (#6-7); IT (#17-29), Judas 
Thomas builds a palace for the king in heaven, rather than on earth; 
at first die king is angry, but is eventually won over and he receives 
baptism; HI (#30-3 8), an episode concerning the Black Snake, where 
Judas Thomas revives a young man, slain by the snake; IV (#39- 
41), a colt invites Judas Thomas to ride on it in order to go to the 
city to preach; V (#42-50), Judas Thomas heals a woman possessed 
by a devil, and then baptizes her; VI (#51-61) he raises from the 
dead a young woman who had been murdered by a youth; she de- 
scribes what she has seen in the underworld, and the torments of 
the wicked; VTI (#62-67), an episode concerning a general (later - 
on named as Sipur) who seeks the Apostle's help in healing his 
wife and daughter; he entrusts them to his deacon Xanthippos; 
Vni (#68-81 ), four wild asses offer their services to Judas Thomas, 
and diey convey him and the general to the city, where die Apostle 
heals the general's wife and daughter; IX (#82-1 1 8) the conversion 
of Mygdonia, wife of Karish, a kinsman of king Mazdai; when 
Mygconia refuses to sleep with Karish, he complains to Mazdai, 
who throws the Apostle into prison, where he sings the Hymn of 
the Soul (#108-1 13); X (#1 1 9-133) Mygdonia is baptised, together 
with her nurse Narkia; subsequently Sipur and his wife and daugh- 
ter also ask for baptism; XI (#134-138), Mazdai's wife Tenia vis- 
its Mygdonia and is won over by the Apostle's teaching - to the 
dismay of Mazdai; XH (#139-149) Mazdai's son Vizan has vari- 
ous conversations with the Apostle, who is again imprisoned; XHI 
(#150-158), Vizan, his wife Manashar, and Tenia are all baptized; 
[XIV] The Martyrdom (#159-170): king Mazdai sentences the 
Apostle, orders some soldiers to take him up a nearby mountain 
and stab him to death. Judas subsequently appears to Sipur and 
Vizan, and to the women. Later, some dust from the Apostle's grave 


Six Main Periods... 

heals one of Mazdai's sons from demonic possession, and Mazdai 

himself confesses Christ. 

7. A Syriac work attributed to 'MELITO the 
Philosopher' [ET], claiming to be a Discourse before Antoninus 
Caesar (i.e.the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, AD 
161-180), belongs to the second-century genre of 'Apologies', or 
defences of Christianity addressed to the Roman Emperor, of which 
several examples survive in Greek. Since it envisages a time when 
the emperor might convert to Christianity, it is more likely to be- 
long to the third, rather than the second, century. It is uncertain 
whether Syriac is the original language; since the work quotes 2 
Peter (not in the early Syriac New Testament canon), it may well be 
that the Syriac is translated from a lost Greek original. 

8. The Syriac SENTENCES OF MENANDER [ET] consist 
of wisdom sayings attributed to Menander the Sage. The work has 
no clear connection with a Greek collection of Menander Sentences; 
it is usually thought, however, that the Syriac is a translation and 
thatthe work was originally written perhaps in Egypt in the early 
Roman period. The author has little knowledge of Judaism and 
there are no traces of Christianity. 

9, The LETTER OF MARA [ET] to his son Serapion, which 
gives various counsels of advice to his son in the face of the vanity 
of the world. The author purports to be a pagan, and passing men- 
tion is made of 'the wise king' (i.e. Jesus) who was killed by the 
Jews, as a result of which Jerusalem fell. The Letter has been 
dated variously to the late first cenftiry, the third century, or the 
fourth century; since the link between the destruction of Jerusalem 
(in AD 70) and the death of Jesus is characteristic of fourth-century 
Christian anti-Jewish polemic, it is likely that the Letter is in fact a 
Christian product of that century. 

10*. The story of the 'Aramaean Sage' AHIKAR [ET] has 
the distinction of being the longest-lived piece of Aramaic litera- 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
ture, witnesses to it spanning two and a half millennia; the Aramaic 
text goes back at least to the fifth century BC, when it is already 
found in a papyrus from Elephantine (in the south of Egypt), and 
the work was evidently well known to the author of the book of 
Tobit, where Ahikar features as a close relative of Tobit (Tobit 1:21). 
In the Hellenistic period the book was translated into Greek (now 
lost, apart from a section which was incorporated into the Greek 
Life of Aesop). It is not known exactly how the story of Ahikar 
reached Syriac, but this was probably at an early date. Over the 
course of time translations have been made into many different lan- 
guages, among them Arabic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Georgian, Old 
Turkish, Modern Syriac, and (via the lost Greek) Romanian and 
Slavonic. The work consists of a narrative framework set in the 
time of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (704-681 BC), and into this 
framework two sets of admonitions to Ahikar's nephew Nadan-had 
been incorporated at an early date. * 


The middle and second half of the fourth century witness the 
first major Syriac writings to survive: the Demonstrations of 
Aphrahat, the extensive poetry and prose works by Ephrem, and 
the anonymous Book of Steps (Liber Graduum). 

1 1 *. APHRAHAT (also known as 'the Persian Sage') is the 
author of a collection of 23 short works described as 'Demonstra- 
tions' or (sometimes) 'Letters' [FT, GT, partial ET]. The first 22 
form an alphabetic acrostic (the Syriac alphabet has 22 letters), and 
1-10 are specifically dated to AD 337, 1 1-22 to AD 344, and 23 to 
August AD 345. The exact identity of the author was unclear to 
later writers, and in the earliest manuscripts his name is given as 
'Jacob', rather than 'Aphrahat', and this gave rise to his being incor- 
rectly identified as*Jacob, bishop of Nisibis (obviously impossible, 
since Jacob of Nisibis died in 338). This contusion must have arisen 
at an early date, since it is found in the Latin writer Gennadius (late 


The Fourth Century 

t'ilih century), as well as in the early Armenian translation of the 
Demonstrations, In the Middle Ages further confusion was added 
when he was described as a bishop of the famous monastery of Mar 


Aphrahai (as he is regularly called today) was certainly writ- 
ing within the Persian Empire, and must have been a figure of some 
authority within the Church (this emerges especially from Demon- 
strations 10 and 14, both of which are addressed to 'the bishops and 
clergy'). The Demonstrations cover a wide variety of topics, as 
can be seen from the following list: 

1, On Failh [ET] 

2, On Love [ET] 

3, On Fasting 

4, On Prayer [ET] £ 

5, On Wars [ET] 

6, On the Bnay Qyama [sec below for these; ET] 

7, On Penitents [ET] 

8, On the Resurrection of the Dead [ET] 

9, On Humility 

10, On the Pastors [ET] 

1 1, On Circumcision [ET] 

13, On the Sabbath [ET] 

14, Exhortation 

15, On the Distinction between foods [ET] 

16, On the (gentile) Peoples who have taken the place of the 
(Jewish) People [ET] 

17, On Christ the Son of God [ET] 

1 8, Against the Jews, on Virginity and on Continence [ET] 

1 9, Against the Jews who say that they will be gathered together 
again [ET] 

20, On the Support of the Needy 

21 , On the Persecution [ET] 



Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

22, On Death and the Last Times [ET] 

23, On the Grape in the Cluster, in which there is Blessing (Isaiah 
65:8). [partial ET] 

The first group often Demonstrations are primarily concerned 
with aspects of the Christian life, while in the second group (1 1-22) 
many of the Demonstrations are aimed at Christians who were at- 
tracted by Judaism and had adopted various Jewish practices (it is 
not very likely that Aphrahat was arguing directly with Jews). 

Demonstration 4 has the distinction of being the earliest 
Christian treatise in any language on prayer (as opposed to the Lord's 
Prayer, on which Origen had written in the third century). 

Demonstration 6 is one of the most important sources for 
knowledge of the early Syriac ascetic tradition, independent of the 
influence (which was later to prove very strong) of Egyptian mo- 
nasticism. The work is addressed to certain categories of men and' 
women who had evidently made some sort of ascetic commitment, 
perhaps at the same time as baptism (which at that time would have 
been adult, rather than infant, baptism). The key terms used are 
ihidaye, bnay qyama, bthule and qaddishe. In later usage ihidaya 
means "solitary, hermit', as opposed lodayraya, acenobitic monk; 
in fourth-century texts, however, it has a much wider sense, cover- 
ing all of the following: single (in the sense of celibate), single- 
minded, and follower of Christ the ihidaya (ihidaya corresponds to 
Greek monogenes, 'Only-Begotten'). Bnay qyama, literally 'chil- 
dren of the covenant' (singular bar qyama (masc.) and bath qyama 
(fern.)) seems to be another term for the same group; various sug- 
gestions have been made for the sense of qyama here, but on the 
whole it seems 'covenant', in the sense of formal commitment, is 
the most likely). The ihidaye, or bnay qyama, are made up of two 
categories, the bthule and the qaddishe. The term hthule, literally 
'virgins', refers to unmarried men or women who have committed 
themselves to celibacy, while qaddishe, literally "holy ones', is used 


The Fourth Centtiry 

of married people who have decided to refrain from sexual inter- 
course (the term derives from the Sinai narrative in Exodus 19- 
compare verse 10 with verse 15). 

Demonstrations 5, 14 and 21 all concern contemporary events 
and so are of historical significance. 

Aphrahat's concern with Judaism in the second group was 
partly occasioned by external events: in the early 340s (perhaps 
341), at a time of hostilities with the Roman Empire, a persecution 
took place and a number of prominent Christians, clergy and lay 
were martyred. One of the causes of this seems to have been accu- 
sations, made by Jews influential in couit circles, that the Chris- 
tians secretly favoured the Romans (an accusation probably not with- 
out a grain of truth, as can be seen from the much earlier Dem 5) 
(Demonstration 2 ! is specifically on this persecution). 

Aphrahat's Demonstrations represent the first extensive 
piece of Syriac literature to survive. Many passages are written in 
an artistic and highly poetical form of prose, and his works consti- 
tute one of the best models of early Syriac prose style Though 
certainly not untouched by Greek influence, Aphrahat is one of the 
least hellenizcd of Syriac writers. 

12*. EPHREM (c.306 - 9 vii 373). The date and place of his 
birth are unknown. His parents were probably both Christian, and 
most of his life was spent in Nisibis where he served as a deacon 
under its bishops, beginning with Jacob (James; d.338). In 363 
when Nisibis was handed over to the Persian Empire the Christian 
population had to leave and so Ephrem spent the last ten years of 
his life in Edessa. It should be noted that the sixth -century biog- 
raphy of Ephrem is full of unreliable details, and gives a misleading 
portrait of him. 

Ephrem wrote in both prose and poetry, and in both these 
mediums he made use of two separate forms: some of his prose 
works are in straightforward prose, while others are in a highly ar- 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

tistic form of prose. In his poetiy he makes use of both the mernra 
and the madrasha. The mernra is employed lor narrative poetry, 
and is written in couplets consisting of 7 + 7 syllables (later known 
as the metre of Mar Ephrem), while the madrasha is used for lyric 
poetry written in stanzas, which can be in a variety of different syl- 
labic metres, though for any one poem the same metre is adhered to 
throughout. Ephrem has a repertoire of some 50 different syllabic 
metres, ranging from the very straightforward (e.g. four lines, each 
of 5 syllables) to the highly complex. 

Ephrem's great reputation rests primarily upon his poetry, 
and he is undoubtedly to be classed as the finest and greatest of all 
Syriac poets. At the same time Ephrem was a theologian of great 
insight, and one who deliberately preferred to express his theology 
through the medium of poetry rather than prose. No doubt as a 
result of his fame, a very large number of writings came to be trans- 
mitted under his name, many of which are certainly not genuinely 
by him, while uncertainty surrounds some of the others. Those 
mentioned below are for the most pan generally accepted to be the 
genuine works. 

The unsatisfactory eighteenth- and nineteenth-century edi- 
tions of Ephrem's works have now almost entirely been replaced 
by better modern editions. 

Prose. (1 ) Ordinary Prose 

- Commentary (pushaqa) on Genesis [ET], 

- Exposition (turgama) on Exodus [ET]. A set of com- 
mentaries on most of the books of the Old Testament is attributed 
to Ephrem, but it is only these two that are likely to be genuine (or 
if not, at least to come from his circle). The biblical text is com- 
mented on in sequence, but unevenly; in the Commentary on Gen- 
esis a great deal of attention is paid to the early chapters (especially 
1-6), while only intermittent comment is made on the rest of the 


, i i 

The Fourth Century 

book, wiili the exception of Gen.49, for which he offers two differ- 
ent sets of comment. The Interpretation on Exodus is much shorter 
and incomplete, ending with ch.32. Both works are remarkable for 
the large number of Jewish traditions to which they allude, and at 
times Ephrem quotes phrases which coincide with one or other of 
the Jewish Targums; it is not at all likely, however, that he had 
direct access to these, and his knowledge oi'Jcwish traditions prob- 
ably came to him orally. 

- Commentary on the Diatessaron [ET]. The Syriac oiiginal 
of most of this work has only come to light within the last few de- 
cades; before that, the work was only known from an Armenian 
translation (which is still the only complete text). In this work 
Ephrem comments on the harmonized text of the Gospel known as 
the Diatessaron, rather than on a single Evangelist; besides being 
a very important witness to the text of the Diatessaron, the Com- 
mentary is of particular interest as an extensive fourth-century source 
for early Syriac exegesis of the Gospel text. The work is very 
varied in its literary character: some sections read more like notes, 
while others contain extended theological digressions; others, again, 
take on almost a lyrical character. Since the exegesis of the Com- 
mentary sometimes conflicts with that found in the Hymns, it has 
been suggested that the Commentary may derive from the follow- 
ers of Ephrem, rather than Ephrem himself; to complicate mailers 
further, there are some notable differences here and there between 
the Syriac and Armenian texts, and at one point there is a duplica- 
tion in the text (X. 1 -2(beginning) and XV. 1 9b). The Commentary 
also contains the only clear case in the whole of die Ephrem corpus 
of knowledge of Aphrahat: XVI.25 clearly reflects Aphrahat 

- Commentary on Acts [LT]. This short work survives only in 
Armenian translation. 

- Commentary on the Pauline Epistles [LT]. This loo sur- 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
vives only in Armenian. It includes a commentary on IB Corinthians 
an apocryphal letter of Paul which had quite wide circulation in the 
early Syriac Church, but which no longer survives in Syriac. 

- Prose Refutations [ET]. Under this modern general title 
the following works are included: Five Discourses addressed to 
Hypatius, against false doctrines; Against Bardaisan's Discourse 
entitled 'Domnus' (the work is also known as Against the Phitonists)- 
Against false teaching (or: Against Marcion, I); Two Discourses' 
against Marcion (or: Against Marcion H-Hi); Discourse against 

Prose (2) Artistic Prose 

- Discourse on our Lord [ET]. 

- Letter to Publius [ET], Two extensive extracts survive frotn 
this letter which consists in a meditation on the Last Judgement. ' 

- Discourse on the Signs which Moses performed in Egypt 
[FT]. This belongs to a group of discourses under Ephrem's name 
and this one alone has been judged to be genuine. 

Poetry (1) Narrative verse (memre) 

- Six memre on Faith [ET]. Usually thought to be an early 

work. J 

- Memre on Nicomedia [FT]. This extensive cycle takes as 
Its topic the devastation by earthquake of Nicomedia in 358 The 
work survives in Syriac only in a few quotations, but is available 
almost completely in an early Armenian translation. 

- Memre against Bardaisan [ET], 

A large number of memre are transmitted under Ephrem's 
name, only a few of which are likely to be genuine. In the four 
volumes of Sermones (= memre) in E.Beek's critical edition the 


The Fourth Century 

following are considered by him as probably genuine: 

- 1. 1-3, On Reproof 

-II.l, On Jonah and the Repentance of Nineveh [ET]. This 
long narrative poem was translated into Greek, Armenian, Geor- 
gian, and Ethiopia; many excerpts from it are to be found both in 
the Syrian Orthodox Fenqitho and in the Church of the East's Hudra. 

- II.4, On the Sinful Woman (Luke 7) [ET]. The core of this 
influential poem is considered by Beck to be genuine. The narra- 
tive introduces the Seller of Unguents and Satan (posing as one of 
the Woman's former lovers), and these motifs are taken up by many 
later writers. There is a Greek adaptation, through which these 
motifs ultimately reached the medieval west. 

- IV.2, On Solitaries [ET]. This alone of the texts in Beck's 
Sermones III and IV might possibly be genuine. The memre ed- 
ited by him in his Nachtrage zu Ephrem are not likely to be genu- 
ine, and the same applies to the many memre published elsewhere 
under Ephrem's name. 

Poetry (2) Lyrical poems (madrashe, or prayer songs; con- 
ventionally translated 'hymns') 

These constitute Ephrem's most important writings; they 
come down to us in collections of varying sizes preserved with the 
poems in their complete form only in a small number of manu- 
scripts of the fifth to seventh century (later manuscripts and the 
liturgical tradition provide only excerpts). It is uncertain whether 
these collections go back to Ephrem himself, or to some later edi- 
tor/collector of his works; in any case, they were already in exist- 
ence by 485, when Philoxenus refers to several of them (he also 
mentions some collections which no longer survive). 

- madrashe on Faith [ET]. This is the largest collection (87), 
and it includes the famous group of five poems on the Pearl and its 
symbolism (81-85). 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

- madrashe on Nisibis [ET for 1-21,35-43,52-681. Thiscol- 
lection of 77 poems is usually known under the Latin title given it 
by its first editor (Bickell); only the first 34 concern Nisibis and its 
bishops, while the remainder are lor the most part concerned with 
(he theme of the Descent of Christ into die Underworld (Shcol). In 
a small group of the second half (nos 52-54) Ephrem employs the 
ancient Mesopotamian genre of the precedence dispute, where two 
characters (in this case Satan and Death) dispute in alternating verses 
over which of the two has superior power over human beings; this 
genre was subsequently taken up and adapted by the authors of the 
later Dialogue poems between pairs of biblical characters (see 1 7, 
below, for these). 

- madrashe against Heresies. Most of the poems in this group 
of 56 madrashe are directed against the teaching of Marcion,, 
Bardaisan and Mani; they probably belong to Ephrem's last ten 
years when he was in Edessa. 

- madrashe on Virginity [ET]. This collection of 52 poems (a 
few arc lost or damaged) covers many other topics as well (e.g. 4-7 
are entitled 'On oil, the olive, and the mysteries of our Lord'). 

- madrashe on the Church IGTj. This collection, also of 52 
poems, covers a variety of topics; there are several gaps where the 
manuscript is defective. 

- madrashe on the Nativity [ET]. This collection was prob- 
ably originally much larger than the 28 poems in Beck's edition, 
and is likely to have included a small number of perhaps genuine 
poems in the collection now entitled 'On Epiphany' (in Ephrem's 
day the Nativity and Epiphany (Baptism) of Christ were celebrated 
on the same day, 6th Jan.). Excerpts from a number of them fea- 
ture in the liturgical texts for the period of Subbara and Nativity in 
both the Fenqitho and the Hudra. 


The Fourth Century 

- madrashe on Unleavened Bread. (21), on the Crucifixion 
(9), and on the Resurrection (5) [FT]. The first group of this Pas- 
chal cycle is missing several poems in the middle. A number of 
stanzas from these madrashe also feature in the Fenqitho and Hudra. 

- madrashe on Paradise [ET]. This group of 1 5 poems prob- 
ably belong to his time in Nisibis. 

- madrashe on the Fast ( 1 0). 

- madrashe against Julian [ET]. This small collection of four 
madrashe is concerned with the death of the emperor Julian on cam- 
paign in the Persian Empire in 363; this was seen by Ephrem (and 
by Christian writers in general) as a punishment for his reversion to 
paganism and his various actions taken against Christianity. 

- Three further collections, on the ascetics Abraham ol'Qidun 
(15) and Julian the Elder (Saba; 24), and on the Confessors (6) are 
attributed to Ephrem, but most of these madrashe cannot be by him 
forvarious reasons; those which may be genuine are: On Abraham 
of'Qidun 1-5; on Julian Saba 1-4. 

- A collection of 51 hymns [LT] is preserved only in Arme- 
nian translation. Some at least of these could well be genuine and 
represent material belonging to some of the lost collections of 

work dealing with spiritual direction, consisting in 30 chapters [LT; 
ET forthcoming]. The author, who almost certainly lived in the 
Persian Empire (there is a reference to the river Zab, a tributary of 
the river Tigris), is unknown; probably he was writing in the late 
fourth century (or possibly early fifth). Within the Christian com- 
munity which the anonymous author is addressing a distinction is 
made between the 'Upright' (ki'ne) and the 'Perfect' or 'Mature' 
(gmire): the former observe the 'lesser commandments' and live a 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
life of active charity, while the latter follow the 'greater command- 
ments', which involve a total renunciation of belongings and a radi- 
cal imitation of the life of Christ. 

The Book of Steps was rarely copied as a whole, and most 
of the (fairly numerous) manuscripts contain only a small number 
of Discourses (sometimes misattributed: e.g. 14 is wrongly attrib- 
uted to Evagrius). The Book of Step's two-fold classification was 
taken up later by Philoxenus (see 22, below), whereas most subse- 
quent writers preferred the three-fold model developed by John the 
Solitary (see 16, below). 

The 30 chapters have the following headings: 

1 , On the distinction between the major commandments, for the 

perfect, and the minor commandments, for the upright. 

2, On those who wish to be perfect. 

3, The physical and the spiritual ministry. 

4, On 'vegetables' for the sick (cp Rom.l4:2). 

5, On 'milk' for infants (cpICor.3: 1-2). 

6, On the person who becomes perfect and continues to grow. 

7, On the commandments for the upright. 

8, On the person who gives all he hits to the poor to eat. 

9, On uprightness and on the love of the upright and of the proph- 


10, On the advantage we have when we endure evil while per- 
forming good; and on fasting and humiliation of body and 

1 1 , On hearing the Scriptures, and when the Law is read before us. 

12, On the ministry of the hidden and the revealed church. 

13, On the way of life of the upright. 

14, On the upright and the perfect. 

15, On the marriage instinct in Adam. 

1 6, On how a person grows as a result of the major command- 


Fifth to Mid Seventh Centuries 

17, On the sufferings of our Lord, by which an example is pro- 
vided for us. 

1 8, On the tears of prayer. 

19, On the distinguishing characteristics of the way of perfec- 

20, On the hard steps on this way. 

21 , On the Tree of Adam. 

22, On the judgements by which those who make them are not 

23, On Satan, Pharoah, and the Children of Israel. 

24, On repentance. 

25, On the voice of God and that of Satan. 

26, On the second law which the Lord laid down for Adam. . 

27, On the matter of the thief who was saved. 

28, On the human soul got being blood. 

29, On subduing the body. 

30, On the commandments of faith and of love of the Solitaries. 


(a) 5th cent. 

14. CYRILLONA. (11. c.400). A small collection of six 
verse texts (which evidently belong together) include two which 
are specifically attributed to a Cyrillona, whose identity remains 
mysterious. Since one of the poems concerns an incursion of the 
Huns, this can be dated to c.396. Some modern writers have iden- 
tified him with 'Absamya, the son of Ephrem's sister, solely on the 
grounds that he is also said to have written a poem on an incursion 
by the Huns; even more unlikely is the suggestion that he is to be 
identified as Qiyore (Cyrus), head of the School of Edessa. The 
six poems are in several different metres and cover the following 
topics: on locusts and on the incursion of the Huns; on the Wash- 
ing of the Feet; on the Pasch; on the Crucifixion; on Wheat and 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
its symbolism; and on Zacchaeus (those on the incursion of the 
Huns and the Crucifixion are the ones specifically attributed to 
Cyrillona). [GT, FT, IT]. 

15.BALAI. (11. first half of 5th cent.). Nothing is known of 
the life of this poet except that he was achorepiskopos, perhaps in 
the area around Aleppo. 

- Five madras he in honour of the departed bishop Akakios of 
Beroea (Aleppo). 

- A madrasha written for the dedication of a new church in 
Qenneshrin (Chalkis). [ET, FT, GT1. 

- Many short liturgical ba'awata (supplicatory hymns) in the 
five-syllable metre (known as the metre of Mar Balai) are attrib- 
uted to him, but whether correctly or not is uncertain. 

- An early manuscript of the epic poem on Joseph (in 12 
memre, employing the 7+7 syllable metre) attributes this work to 
Balai, rather than to Ephrem: its line author remains uncertain. 

16*. JOHN THE SOLITARY (John of Apamea). (first half 
5th cent.). Much uncertainty surrounds the identity of the author of 
a considerable number of works on spirituality: the manuscripts 
attribute them variously to John the Solitary, John of Apamea, and 
John of Lykopolis (or Thebes; d. c.394); the last is certainly incor- 
rect, but it seems quite likely that John the Solitary and John of 
Apamea are one and the same person who belongs to the first half 
of the fifth century, and is to be distinguished from 'John the Egyp- 
tian', whose teaching Philoxenos opposed, and a later 'John of 
Apamea', condemned at a Syrian synod in 786/7. The works pub- 
lished so far under John's name all seem to be genuinely by the 
same author, and their threefold pattern of the spiritual life, the stages 


Fifth to Mid Seventh Centuries 

of the body, of the soul and of the spirit, was to prove very influen- 
tial on later Syriac monastic writers. John must have received his 
education in both Greek and Syriac, and he may have had some 
training in medicine. Several of his works are in the form of dia- 
logues, imitating the Greek genre of the philosophical dialogue that 
had already been used in the Book of the Laws of the Countries. 
His main works so far published are: 

- A dialogue on the soul and the passions [FT] . 

- Commentary on Qohelet (Ecclesiastes). 

- Three Letters [GT], the first addressed to Theodoulos and 
his circle, the other two to Eutropios and Eusebios. 

- Six Dialogues with Thaumasius; Letters and treatises ad- 
dressed to Thaumasios, on the mystery of the economy of Christ 

- Three discourses [ET of 1 ; GT]; the first is on perfection, 
or stillness; the second and third on the mystery of baptism. 

- Letter to Hesychios, on the monastic life [ET]. 

- Discourse on Prayer [ET]. 

A considerable number of works still remain to be published. 

17*. ANONYMOUS POETRY. Although it is very difficult to 
assign a date to anonymous poetry (of which a great deal sur- 
vives), the following narrative posms (memre) on biblical topics 
probably belong to the fifth century: 

- Memra on Abraham and Sarah in Egypt (Gen. 12: 10-20) 

- Two memre on the Sacrifice of Isaac (Gen. 22) [ET]. The 
second of these makes use of the first, and both give a prominent 
place to Sarah (who is never mentioned in the biblical narrative). 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
- Four memre on Joseph (attributed to Narsai, but probably 
not by him) [ET of 3-4].. 


- Memra on Elijah and the Widow of Sarepta (1 Kings 17) 

Memra on Mary and Joseph [ET], 

It is likely that many of the dialogue soghyatha dealing with 
biblical characters also belong to the fifth century since they are 
transmitted in both East and West Syriac manuscripts; among these 
will be: 

-Abel and Cain [GT]; Mary and the Angel [ET]; Mary and 
the Magi [ET]; John the Baptist and Christ [ET1; The Cherub and 
the Thief [ET]; the Dispute of the Months [ET]. 

Many anonymous madrashe, such as many of those on the 
Virgin Mary [ET], are also likely to belong to the fifth century. 

early manuscripts can sometimes assure a fifth-century date for a 
hagiogmphical text; in other cases, such dating is less secure, but 
nevertheless probable. The following are the most notable works: 

- Life of Abraham of Qidun and his niece Mary (wrongly 
attributed to Ephrem) [ET for section on Maryl. This was trans- 
lated into Greek and thence into Latin; the Latin served as the basis 
for a play on this subject by the tenth-century nun Hrotswitha of 


- Life of the Man of God [FT, ET] . The earliest form of this 
work was composed in Syriac, and this was translated into Greek in 
a re-edited form where the hero is now named Alexis; this ampli- 
fied Greek story was subsequently translated back into Syriac, as 
well as into Latin (which served as the basis for one of the earliest 


Fifth to Mid Seventh Centuries 
pieces of medieval French literature). 

- Martyrdoms of Shmona, Gurya and Habbib [ET], The cult 
of these Edessene martyrs (probably martyred in 297 and 309) spread 
widely and the Syriac Acts were translated into Greek. 

- Teaching of Addai [ET], Martyrdoms of Sharbel and 
Barsamya [ETJ. The Teaching of Addai recounts in much mote 
extended form the legend of the correspondence between king Abgar 
the Black of Edessa and Jesus, which is already recorded by Eusebius 
in Greek translation in his Ecclesiastical History (1.13). Among 
the additional materials are sermons in Edessa by Addai, and an 
early account of the Finding of the Cross (by Protonike, wife of the 
emperor Claudius, rather than by Helena, mother of Constantine, as 
the standard legend has itf). The Teaching of Addai has many fea- 
tures in common with the purely legendary martyrdoms (under 
Trajan) of Sharbel and Barsamya. It is quite likely that this group 
of texts was produced in Edessa in the 420s and 430s in circles 
supporting Ibas against bishop Rabbula. 

- Euphemia and the Goth [ET). This local Edessene narra- 
tive concerns the story of a young woman of Edessa forcefully mar- 
ried to a Goth who had been billeted in her mother's house. 

- Acts of the Persian martyrs under Shapur II. A large num- 
ber of texts concerning martyrs during Shapur's persecution of Chris- 
tians in the 340's come down to us; these vary very considerably in 
character, date and reliability. It is likely that the oldest ones were 
written in the early decades of the fifth century, and these include: 
the older of the two (related) Acts of the Catholicos Simeon bar 
Sabba'e, the martyrdoms of Miles, of Pusai, of Martha [ET], and 
those of several other martyrs. In the course of time many further 
accounts of martyrs from this, the most severe of persecutions un- 
der the Sasanians, came to be written. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

- Acts of the Persian martyrs under -Yezdgerd I and Bahrain 
V. A small group of short but important accounts of martyrdoms in 
the early 420s survives (one of these is attributed to a certain Abgar); 
they include the martyrdoms of Narsai (not the poet!), Tataq, Jacob 
the Notary, the ten martyrs of Beth Garmai, 'Abda, Peroz and 
Mihrshabur. The martyrdom of 'Abda is incomplete, but further 
information about it is provided in Greek, inTheodoret's Ecclesi- 
astical History V.39. 

- Acts of the Persian martyrs under Yezdgerd II. Several 
extensive accounts of martyrdoms from the 440s come down, nota- 
bly the cycle of texts concerning Pet h ion, where the narratives have 
taken on legendary proportions [ET of martyrdom of Anahid]. 

- Life ol'Symeon the Stylite [ET]. This was composed shortly 
after Symcon's death in 459 by a monk of the monastery attached to * 
Symeon's pillar. Together with The od Orel's short eyewitness ac- 
count in his Historia Religiosa, this is the most important source for 
the life of this influential pillar saint. The Syriac Life survives in at 
least two slightly different forms. 

- 'Julian Romance' [ET], This long work, bitterly hostile to 
the emperor Julian, slain in battle in 363, is primarily concerned 
with his successor, Jovian, who is portrayed in highly eulogistic 
terms. The work (whose opening is lost) was certainly composed 
in Edessa, and probably belongs to the fifth century (rather than the 
sixth, as was formerly thought). 

- Life of Rabbula [ET in preparation], bishop of Edessa 4 1 1- 
436. This is in the form of a panegyric. (Rabbula was himself an 
author who wrote in both Greek and Syriac; of the latter, only his 
translation of Cyril of Alexandria's work On True Faith and some 
ecclesiastical canons survive). 

- Prose homily on Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 22) [ET|. 


Fifth to Mid Seventh Centuries 

19*. NARSAI. (E; C.399-C.502). Born in the Persian Em- 
pire at 'Ain Dulba in Ma'alta, he was orphaned at an early age and 
was brought up by an uncle who was superior ol'the monastery of 
KfarMari, near Beth Zabdai; he also spent 10 years as a student at 
the Persian School in Edessa, to which he subsequently returned as 
a teacher, eventually (at an unknown date) becoming its Head. 
Owing to conflict with the bishop Cyras, Narsai left (per- 
haps c.47 1 ) I'orNisibis, where, with the help of its bishop Barsauma 
he reestablished the School (which no doubt took in the staff and 
students of the Persian School of Edessa when that was closed in 
489 by order of the emperor Zeno); he was still alive in 496, the 
date ol'the first Statutes of the School of Nisibis [ETJ. The date of 
his death, certainly at a great age, is not known. His surviving 
works are all in verse, being memre using both the 7:7 and 12; 12 
metres. Some eighty meirffe, or verse homilies, are preserved, the 
majority dealing with biblical topics (both Old and New Testaments); 
there is also an important group which constitute verse commentar- 
ies on the baptismal and cucharislic riles. Although Narsai is prob- 
ably the most important poet ol'the Church of the East, only a small 
number of his homilies are so far available in modern translations; 
these include: 

- 6 memre on Creation [FT]. 

- 4 memre on baptism and eucharist (one of these, Homity 
1 7, is almost certainly not by Narsai himself, but must dale from the 
sixth century) [ETJ. 

- 5 memre on dominical feasts (Nativity, Epiphany, Passion, 
Resurrection, Ascension) [ETJ. These include several passages of 
christological concern, where Narsai opposes the position of Cyril 
of Alexandria. 

- 6 memiic on Old Testament topics [ET]: Enoch and Elijah, Flood, 
Blessings of Noah, Tower of Babel, Tabernacle, Brazen Serpent. 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

- 5 memre on Gospel Parables [FT]: Ten Virgins, Prodigal 
Son, Rich man and Lazams, Workers in the Vineyeard, Wheat and 


- Memra on the Three Doctors (Diodore, Nestorius, 
Theodore) [FT1. 

The dialogue soghyatha attributed to Narsai are almost cer- 
tainly not by him. 

(b) 5th/6th cent. 

20*. JACOB of SERUGH (W; d.29 Nov 521). Jacob, per- 
haps the finest Syriac poet after Ephrem, was born at Kurtam on the 
river Euphrates some time in the middle of the fifth century; he 
received his education at the Persian School in Edessa, but reacted 
against its christological leachinu. At an unknown date he became 
chorepiskopos in the Serugh area (to SW of Edessa), and in 519 
was appointed bishop of Batnan da-Srugh. He evidently disliked 
and tried to keep out of the contemporary christological controver- 
sies, and it is only from some of his Letters that (under pressure 
from his correspondents) he openly expresses his disapproval of 
the doctrinal formula of Chalcedon (45 1 ). His fame rests chiefly 
on a very large number of surviving memre in the 12-syllable metre; 
some 225 of these have been edited so far, but many more still 
remain unpublished. The vast majority of the memre deal with 
biblical topics, often in a highly imaginative way. In several memre 
. (notably those on the Six Days of Creation) the influence of the 
exegesis of Theodore of Mopsuestia can be discerned, a legacy of 
Jacob's education at the Persian School in Edessa. A number of 
homilies are devoted to different aspects of the life of the Virgin 
Mary, and there are also some which deal with particular saints (e.g. 
Simeon the Stylite); others cover a variety of other topics, includ- 
ing ascetic, liturgical and eschatological themes. Six prose homi- 



£>th / 6th Cent. 

lies (lurgame) also survive, concerned with the Nativity, Epiphany 
the Great Fast (Lent), Palm Sunday (Hosha'na), me Passion, and 
the Resurrection, Jacob has also left 43 Letters, prose lives of two 
contemporary saints (Daniel of Galash and Hannina), and various 
madrashc; of these only the Letters have so far been published 
Three Anaphoras and the Maronite baptismal service are also at- 
tributed to Jacob. As withNarsai, only a small number of Jacob's 
works are yet available in modem translations, notably the follow- 

- Memre concerning the Virgin Mary [IT, ET forthcoming], 

- 7 memre against the Jews [FT] . The sixth of these is in the 
form of a dispute between the Synagogue and the Church. 

- Memre on the dominical Feasts [ET forthcoming]. 

- 4 memre on Creation [FT] 

- Memra on the VeiTof Moses [ETJ. 

- Memra on Simeon the Stylite [ET]. 

- Prose homilies, or lurgame [FT, ET forthcoming]. 

- Various Letters [FT] and other memre [ET]. 

21. SIMEON the POTTER (Quqaya)(W; n. early 6th cent ) 

The poetic talents of this potter from the North Syrian village of 
Geshir were discovered by Jacob of Sacugh. 9 short poems on the 
Nativity [ET] survive, and these gave rise to a popular genre of 
short poems known as quqyoto. 

Dec 523). He was born in the Persian Empire, at Tahel in Beth 
Garmai. According to a late biography he studied first at the mon- 
astery of Mar Gabriel in Tur 'Abdin before going on to the Persian 
School in Edessa. There he was one of a number of students who 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
reacted against the School's dyophysite, or two-nature, Chiistological 
tradition (others included Jacob of Scrugh and Simeon of Beth 
Arsham); he became a strong opponent of the Council of Chalcedon 
and played an active part in the various controversies of the time. 
In 485 he became metropolitan of Mabbug (consecrated on 1 8 Au- 
gust). After the death of the emperor Anastasius in 5 1 8 the anti- 
Chalccdonian bishops were exiled as a result of the pro-Chalccdonian 
policy of the new emperor, Justin I. Philoxenos was exiled first to 
Gangra (in Paphlagonia) and then (c. 520/1) to Philippoupolis (in 
Thrace), where he died, reputedly from suffocation by smoke from 
the public baths. 

Philoxenos was the most important Syrian Orthodox theolo- 
gian writing in Syriac of his time. Although his own knowledge of 
Greek was probably not very profound, he became aware of the 
need to translate key Greek texts, such as the New Testament and 
the Creed, with greater fidelity to the Greek original, and so Ire 
sponsored revised translations of these (the New Testament revi- 
sion was undertaken by Polycarp, his chore piskopos, and completed 
in 508). The following are his most important works: 

- 'Admonition on (the monastic) way of life', in 13 memre 
[ET, FT]. This important work of monastic guidance survives in a 
large number of manuscripts, indicating its popularity. 

- Ten memre on the phrase "One of the holy Trinity was 
embodied and suffered"; also known as "the memre against Habbib' 
[LT/FTJ. At the end there is an important florilegium, with short 
excerpts from both Greek and Syriac writers. This is an early work, 
dating from c.482/4. 

- 'Three memre on the Trinity and on the Incarnation'; also 
known as 'the Book of Opinions (Ktabad-re'yane)' [LT], 

- Commentary on the Prologue of St John [FT]. This impor- 
tant work is not so much a commentary as a theological treatise 


5th / 6th Cent. 

focusing on John ch.l ; it must date from shortly after 508, since it 
mentions the revision of the Pcshitta New Testament which he spon- 
sored (Philoxenos also explains why it was necessary). 

- Commentary on St Matthew and St Luke [ETJ. This only 
survives in fragmentary form. 

- Meinra on the Annunciation [GT]. This perhaps b^ongs to 
the previous item. 

- Memra on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit [ET,FT]. This 
is concerned with the question whether the Holy Spirit departs from 
someone who sins. 

- Letters. A considerable number of letters survive (some- 
times only in excerpts), and some of these constitute lengthy theo- 
logical treatises. The following have been published: 

- Letter on Faith, addressed to the Monks [ET, FT]. 

- Letter to the enfperor Zcno, on the incarnation of God 
the Word [ET]. 

- First Letter to the monks of Beth Gaugal [ET]. 

- Second Letter to the monks of Beth Gaugal [FT]. 

- Letter to the monks of Senoun [FT], 

- Letter to the monks of Tell 'Ada. 

- Letter to Patricius of Edessa [FT] . An abbreviated form 
of this monastic letter was included in the Greek translation of 
the 'First Part' of Isaac of Nineveh's writings, featuring there 
under Isaac's name. 

- Letter to Abraham and Orestes, priests of Edessa, con- 
cerning Stephen bar Sudhaili [ET]. 

- Letter to Abu Ya'far, the stratelates (general) of Hirta d- 
Na'man. The authenticity of this is uncertain. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

- Letter to the Palestinian monks [FT]. 

- Letter to the Lector Maron from Anazarba [FT]. 

- Letter to Shem 'on, abbot of the monastery of Tell 'Ada 

- Letter to the orthodox monks in the East [FT]. 

- Letter to someone recently converted from the world 
(i.e., a novice) [ET], 

- Letter to a convert from Judaism [FT]. 

A Letter on the three stages of the monastic life is also attrib- 
uted to Philoxenus, but this is certainly incorrect; the work prob- 
ably belongs to Joseph the Seer (see 67, below), 

- Excepts on Prayer [ET]. 

-Three anaphoras and a short baptismal rite are attributed to 
Philoxenos, but whether he is really the author is far from certain. 

23*. ISAAC of ANTIOCH. The conventional designation 
'Isaac of Antioch' in fact covers several different poets by the name 
of Isaac. In the seventh century Jacob of Edessa already distin- 
guished three different people: (1) Isaac of Amid, said to have 
been a pupil of Ephrem, who visited Rome and who served as a 
priest in Amid (other sources state that this Isaac was a pupil of 
Ephrem's pupil Zenobius, and not of Ephrem himself); he is prob- 
ably the author of a surviving memra on Constantinople; (2) Isaac 
'the Great', from Edessa, who flourished at the time of Peter the 
Fuller, patriarch of Antioch (d. 488). This Isaac is probably the 
author of the long poem on the Parrot in Antioch which sang the 
Trisagion with Peter the Fuller's additional wording 'who was cru- 
cified for us' ; (3) Another Isaac from Edessa, who began as an anti- 
Chalcedonian, but under bishop Asklepios of Edessa (522-525) 


6th Century 

became Chalcedonian. In addition to these three Isaacs, belonging 
respectively to the first half of the fifth century, the second half of 
the fifth century and the early sixth century, there was probably a 
fourth poet Isaac, designated 'Isaac the Solitary*. Nearly 200 memre 
attributed to one or other Isaac survive, but of these only 69 have 
been published so far, and for the most part it is unclear to which of 
the Isaacs these should be allocated. Of the homilies that have 
been published only very few correspond with those to be found in 
the earliest manuscripts (sixth centuiy), where the author is simply 
designated 'Isaac the teacher' . Very little of the corpus of homi- 
lies under the name of Isaac is available in modern translation: 

- Memra on Constantinople |ET]. 

- Memra against the Jews [ET]. 

- Two memre on (£e Incarnation | FT]. 

A facing Latin translation is available for the 37 texts by Isaac 
edited by Bickell (1 973); these include some madrashe. 

24. SYMMACHUS (W). This otherwise unknown author 
has left an imaginative Life of Abel [ET]. He is probably not the 
same man as the Symmachus who wrote a commentary on Song of 
Songs 6:10 - end (to supplement that of the Syriac translation of 
Gregory of Nyssa's commentary on that book). 

(c) 6th cent. 

25. ANONYMOUS CHRONICLE, often known as 
that of 'Joshua the Stylite' (W; first quarter of 6th cent.). This 
local Edessene chronicle, which gives a detailed account of events 
in the Edessa area from 495-507, has been preserved through its 
incorporation into the late eighth-century Zuqnin Chronicle (= 69 


Brief outline of Syr Lit 
26. STEPHEN bar SUDH AILI (W; fl . early 6th cent ) A ' 

specu at. ve thinker with pantheist tendencies, he was probably 
the author ol the Book of the Holy Hierotheos fETl which 
purports to be by Hierotheos, the teacher of Dionysms the 

27. SERGIUS of RESH'AINA (W; d.536). A priest and 

rch.atros, Sergius received his education in Alexandra; heS 

iumous (or us translates from Greek, which included sev of 

h ion ofth 1 Wnt r ^ UlC Di ° IlySian C01PUS (S ^ ius ' "— 
Ial.on of th, was subsequently revised at the end of the seventh 

ccnany by Phokas of Edessa). (Transitions of Porphyry" E™ 

orlntroducoon to Aristotle's Logical works, and of SmSSS" have been attributed to Sergius, bu, ,his cannot be co.recl* 

H.s surviving original writings include: 

-a treatise on the spiritual life, serving as an introduction to 
ins tianslation ol Dionyshis the Areopagite [FT]. 

- Two introductions to Aristotle's Lome, a longer one -id 

dc54^', SHEM n^ (SIME ° N) ° fBETH ARSHA ^ (W; 
d.c.548). Syrian Orthodox bishop of Beth Arsham (on the Tigris) 

| whom are ascribed two letters [ET] of great historical impor- 
tance the Christian martyrs of Najran (in 518 5 oo or 
5-3: the precise date is uncertain), and of a polemical treatise 7 0n 

w ;::r: lof . n is] r the sect ^ *—• £££ 

wuh the spread of dyophysite christology in the Easi, as seen from 
ahosu e perspecttve. It has been suggested that Shem'on is also 
*e author of the Book of the Hrmyarites [ET], which is a further! 


6th Century 

slightly later, account of the martyrdoms (the work is unfortunately 

not preserved complete); this, however, is doubtful, and indeed the 

two Letters may be later reworkings of an original letter/letters by 


29.EL1AS(W; fl. mid 6th cent). Author of the Life of John, 
bishop of Telia [LT], addressed to his spiritual brethren Mar Sergius 
and Mar Paul. 

30*. DANIEL of SALAH (W; 11. mid 6th cent.). Author of 
an extensive and important commentary on the Psalms, only small 
extracts of which have so far been published. 

3 1 *. CYRUS of EDESSA (E; fl. 2nd quarter of 6th cent). 
Since he was known as 'of Edessa' he was probably born at Edessa. 
He was a disciple of Mar Aba (Catholicos 540-552) during the time 
Mar Aba taught at the School of Nisibis (c.533/8). He taught at the 
School of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, and became the director there. Sub- 
sequently, after Mar Aba's death, he founded a monastery-school at 
Hirta (al-Hira). He is the author of six 'Explanations' of the main 
dominical commemorations [ET] (the Fast, Pascha, the Passion, 
Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost). 

32. THOMAS of EDESSA (E; fl. 2nd quarter of 6th cent.). 
Pupil of Mar Aba and successor to him as a teacher at the School of 
Nisibis. His Expositions of the Feasts of the Nativity and of 
Epiphany survive (only the former has been edited in full). 

33. CHRONICLE of EDESSA (W; mid 6th cent.). This 
chronicle [ET, GT, LT], which may well be based on the local 
Edesscne archives, opens with a famous account of a flood in Edessa 
in November 201 , in the course of which, among other buildings, 
the sanctuary (haykla) of the church of the Christians' was destroyed. 
The other entries (AD 540 is the latest) are much shorter, and the 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit 
absence of My mention of Addai is especially to be noted. 

34*.JOHNofEPHESUS(W; C.507-C.588). Born near Amid 
he entered the monastery of Mar John Uitaya at Amid at the age of 
15 In the J30s he travelled to Antioch, Egypt and Constantinople 
and became abbot of the monastery of Mar Mare near 
Constantinople. He was sent by the emperor Justinian to convert 
pagans ,n Asia Minor. About 558 he was consecrated metropolitan 
of Epnesus by Jacob Baradaeus. During the reign of Justin Q he 
was imprisoned for a lime, due to his opposition to the Council of 
Chalcedon. His two surviving works are of the greatest importance 
forsixth-century Church history. 

- Lives of the Eastern Saints [ET]. This work consists of 5a 
Short pieces on contemporary Syrian Orthodox holy men and women 
mostly from the Amid region, and many of whom John had known 
in person. 

- Ecclesiastical History [LT]. This work covered from the 
time of Julius Caesar up to 5 88, presumably shortly before his death 
It was arranged in three books, of which only the third is preserved 
complete |ET|. Book I, covering up to 449 is completely lost- for 
Book II, covering 449-57 1 , there is an extensive adaptation, form- 
tog the third part of the Chronicle of Zuqnin (= 69 below), as well 
as a lew fragments of the original work. 

35. PETER of KALLINIKOS (W; d.591 ). Syrian Orthodox 

Patriarch ol Antioch (58 1-591 ). He appears to have written both in 
Synac and in Greek; one work definitely written in Syriac is a 
verse memra on the Crucifixion [ET], and at least one [ET] of his 
seven letters that survive (in part) was also written in Syriac His 
other letters, and three theological treatises, all of which survive 
only in Syriac translation, were all originally written in Greek- these 
are: a Treatise against Proba and John Barbur; the extensive work 
in three books against Damian, Patriarch of Alexandria, [ET] (books 


6th Century 

I and II. I -5 are lost); and a Treatise against the Tritheists [ET]. 

36*. Ps.ZACHARIAS RHETOR (W; late 6th cent.). This 
unknown author of an important Ecclesiastical History incorporated 
into Books 3-6 of his work an adapted translation of pan of an 
Ecclesiastical History by the Greek writer Zacharias Rhetor [ET for 
Books 3-12], Books 1-2 contain (among other things) Syriac trans- 
lations of the History of Joseph and Aseneth, the Acts of St Silvester 
of Rome, the Finding of the relics of St Stephen, the Legend of the 
Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, and the Letter of Proclus to the Arme- 
nians. Books 3-6 (based on Zacharias) cover the years 450-49 1 ; 
Books 7-8 cover the reigns of the emperors Anaslasius (491-518) 
and Justin I (518-27), while Books 9-12 concern the reigns of 
Justinian (527-65) and Justin II up to the year 569 (Book 1 1 is com- 
pletely lost, and of Bookji 1 and 12 only fragments are preserved). 

37. AHUDEMMEH (W? 6th cent.). The identity of this 
Ahudemmeh, author of some short treatises on anthropology, is 
uncertain; it is possible, but far from certain, that he is to be identi- 
fied as the Syrian Orthodox metropolitan of the Orient by that name 
who died in 575, and whose interesting biography survives [FT], 
He must have been living in the Sasanian empire, and his anthro- 
pology seems to be more influenced by Iranian than by Greek ideas. 
Two works are known: 

- On the composition of man [FT]. 

- On man as a microcosm ILT]; this latter work is transmit- 
ted with a text of quite different (and probably Greek) origin, by a 
certain Antipatros. 

38. ABRAHAM of NATHPAR (E; second half of 6th cent.). 
Author of several monastic works, the majority of which remain 

39. ANONYMOUS LITERATURE (6th cent.). 

Mention might be made of the following, all probably be- 
longing to the sixth century; 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

(a) Poetry: Much anonymous poetry is likely to belong to 
the sixth century, e.g. many of the dialogue soghyatha, and a beauti- 
ful madrasha on Epiphany [ET]. 

(b) Prose: Amongst the many anonymous works which prob- 
ably belong to the sixth century the following might be singled out: 

- *Cave of Treasures [ET]. This is a collection of legendary 
biblical traditions, addressed to an unknown Nemesius The work 
covers from Creation to Pentecost, a period which is allocated 5500 
years, with the end of each millennium specifically indicated Many 
non-biblical traditions, often of Jewish origin, are included such as 
the appearance of Noah's fourth son, Yonton, who is portrayed as 
the teacher of wisdom to Nimrod. Though some of its sources go 
back much earlier, it is generally thought to have reached its present 
iorm m about the 6th century; the attribution to Ephrem. found in 
some manuscripts, is certainly incorrect. 

- Three Homilies on Epiphany [FT]. 

- Three Homilies on the Sinful Woman (Luke 7) [FT]. 

- Homily on the High Priest (Hebr. 5:7) [FTj. 

- Life of the East Syrian Catholicos and confessor Mar 
Aba (d.552), and Lives of two East Syrian martyrdom, of Grigor 
(Piragushnasp) and Yazidpaneh, both put to death under Khosrau 
I (531-579). These long accounts are of particular interest for 
the light they shed on Christianity in the Persian Empire in the 
sixth century. 

- Life of Ahudemmeh (d.575) [FT], Syrian Orthodox metro- 
politan of the Orient and 'apostle of the Arabs'. 


6th / 7th Century 
(d) 6th/7th cent. 

40. BARHADBESHABBA 'ARBAYA (E; fl.c.600). 
Barhadbeshabba was a professor at the School of Nisibis, originat- 
ing from Belli 'Arabaye. Modem scholars have usually distin- 
guished him from Barhadbeshabba, bishop of Halwan, though this 
is by no means certain. 

- Ecclesiastical History [FT]. This work, in 32 chapters, is 
entitled in the single surviving manuscript 'History of the holy Fa- 
thers who were persecuted for the sake of truth' . Most of the book 
deals with, first, the Arian controversy of the fourth century, and 
then the conflict between Nestorius and Cyril over Christology. 
Several chapters are in fact short biographies of individual figures, 
such as Athanasius, Gregoiy the Wonderworker, Basil, Diodore, John 
Chrysosostom, Theodore of Mopsueslia, and Nestorius. The final 
two chapters are devoted to Narsai and Abraham (d.569). 

41. BARHADBESHABBA of HALWAN. (E; fl. early 7th 
cent.). He was bishop of Halwan and a signatory of the synod of 
the Caibolicos Gregory in 605; though he is usually distinguised 
from Barhadbeshabba ' Arbaya, it is possible that they are one and 
the same person. 

- Book of the Cause of the Foundation of the Schools [FT]. 
The earlier part concerns 'schools' to be found in the Bible and in 
Classical Greece, the School of Zoroaster, that of Christ 'the Great 
Teacher' and the Christian Schools of Alexandria and Antioch; the 
latter part of the work is devpted to the Persian School of Edessa 
and (especially) the School of Nisibis, up to the lime of the contro- 
versial head of that school, Hnana (of whom the author approves). 
The Statutes of the School of Nisibis (496, revised 604) also sur- 
vive [ET]. 

42. SHUBHALMARAN (E; fl. late 6th/ early 7th cent.). 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Author of several monastic texts, including one entitled 'the Book 
of Gifts' [ET in preparation]. 

43*. BABAI the GREAT (E; c.551-628). He was born in 
Beth 'Ainatha in Beth Zabdai, and after receiving his basic educa- 
tion there he studied at the School of Nisibis under Abraham of 
Beth Rabban. Subsequently he entered the -Great Monastery' on 
Mount Izlafounded in 571 by Abraham of Kashkar(d.588). After 
some years he left, to found his own monastery and school in 
neighbouring Beth Zabdai. In 604 he returned to the Great Monas- 
tery, having been appointed superior, in succession to Dadisho*. 
He was strict in his discipline and carried out a number of reforms ; 
these were not always appreciated and many monks left (Babai's 
Canons survive). On the death of the Catholicos Gregory in 608/9 
no new election to the office of Cadiolicos was allowed by the shah 
Khosro II; as a result the Church of the East was administered 
during the interregnum (609-628) jointly by l he archdeacon of 
Seleucia-Ctesiphon, Mar Aba, and by Babai, who was appointed 
visitor of the monasteries. He died in 628, not long after the death 
of Khosro II. His surviving works cover Christology, asceticism 
hagiography and lilurgy: 


-Book of the Union. [LTJ. 'On the divinity and humanity 
(ol Christ) and on the prosopon of the union', in 7 books (memre) 
The seventh book seems originally to have belonged to a separate 

- Against those who say 'Just as the body and soul are one 
qnoma, so too God the Word and the Man are one qnoma' [LTJ. 

- An excerpt, to the effect that two natures implies two qnome 
is preserved in a later collection of Christological texts [ET], 


6th / 7th Century 

- Commentary on the Centuries of Evagrius [GTj. 

- Commentary on Mark the Monk's work, The Spiritual 
Law (unpublished). 

- Canons for monks [ETJ. 

- Ascetic counsels (unpublished). 


- Life of Giwargis/Mihramgushnasp. martyred in 615, aged 

- Martyrdom of Christina (only the beginning survives). 
(A number of other biographical works are lost). 
Liturgy: * 

- A number of teshbhata attributed to Babai the Great are to 
be found in the Hudra. 

Babai the Great is to be distinguished from his contemporary 
Babai barNsibnaye ('son of Nisibene parents'), who is the author 
of some liturgical poems and a monastic Letter [ET] transmitted 
under the name of the Caiholicos Baboi. 

44*. MARTYRIUS/SAHDONA. (E; fl. first half of 7th 
cent.). Born in Halmon, in Beth Nuhadra. His monastic vocation 
was due to the influence of his mother and a local saintly woman 
named Shirin. He became a monk at the famous monastery of 
Beth 'Abe, and c. 635/40 was appointed bishop of Beth Garmai. 
His more Chalcedonian doctrinal position on Christology (advocat- 
ing one, not two, qnome in the incarnate Christ) came under criti- 
cism at a synod and he was deposed, only to be reinstated shortly 
after, but then once again deposed. Though his Christology is defi- 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
nitely in the East Syrian strongly dyophysite tradition, his 
Chalcedonian leanings have resulted in his work being transmitted 
only in Chalcedonian tradition. 

- The Book of Perfection [FT]: this long work is his great 
masterpiece, and one of the finest products of the East Syrian mo- 
nastic tradition. The beginning is unfortunately lost. The work 
fails into two parts. In Part I the first two sections (mostly lost) 
dealt with the dogmatic foundations of the moral life of Christians, 
while the third and fourth sections provide an introduction to the 
"perfect' (i.e. monastic) life, both cenobitic and solitary. Part II. in 
14 chapters, is devoted to the individual virtues. The strong bibli- 
cal basis of the work is very noticeable, and it contains an excep- 
tionally large number of biblical quotations. 

Five Letters [FT]. 
Maxims on Wisdom [FT]. 


45. ISHO'YAHB II (E; d.646). Catholicos of the Church of 
the East from 628-646, and author of a Letter to a ceitain Rabban 
Abraham on 'How we should confess the single prosopon of Christ' 

46.JOHNoftheSEDRE(W; d.648). Syrian Orthodox Pa- 
triarch of Antioch (630/1-648). John acquired his epithet 'of the 
Sedre' (d-Sedraw(hy)) from having composed liturgical prayers 
known as 'sedre' (he may even have introduced the genre himself). 
Besides the sedre (only a few of which can definitely be ascribed to 
him) John has left the following works: 

-Two 'plerophoriai'fGT], or doctrinal polemics; one of these 
is directed against the followers of Julian of Halicamassus (and con- 
tains an extensive florilegium, or anthology of short patristic ex- 
cerpts), and the other is against the dyophysites. 


6th / 7th Century 

- Discourse on the Myron [GT]. 

- An Anaphora [GT]. 

- A Letter, describing a dialogue with an unnamed Muslim 
emir [FTJ. This interfaith dialogue is said to have taken place on 
Sunday May 9th of an unnamed year; both 639 and 644 have 
been suggested, and if either of these is correct, this represents 
by far the earliest Muslim-Christian dialogue; it is possible, how- 
ever, that the work belongs rather later than John's time. 

47. MARUTHA (W; d.649). Born near Balad, he studied 
for ten years at i he monastery of Mar Zakkai, Kallinikos; later he 
was connected with the monastery of Mar Maitai, and was appointed 
Maphrian of Tagril c. 628/9. His Life [FT] was written by his suc- 
cessor as Maphrian. Denha(d.660), who lists his writings, only some 

of which survive: 


- Homily on the Blessing of the Water at Epiphany [ET]. 

- An account of the 'Nestorianisation' of the Church of 
Persia, preserved in Michael the Syrian's Chronicle [FT]. 

- An anaphora and some prayers are also attributed to him. 

48. GREGORY OF CYPRUS (E; first half 7th cent.). Little 
is known of this Persian monk from Susiana who spent some time 
in Cyprus before returning to a monastery on Mount fzla. Of his 
three Letters and seven treatises on the monastic life only the trea- 
tise entitled 'On holy contemplation (theoria), which is translated 
in Syriac as "divine vision'" has been so far published [LT]. 

49. ANONYMOUS LITERATURE (early 7th cent.). 

- Verse homily on Alexander the Great [ET, GT]; this sur- 
vives in several somewhat different forms, and is sometimes wrongly 
attributed to Jacob of Serugh, but in fact it must be a product of 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
north Mesopotamia and belong to c. 629/30, shortly after Heraclius* 
successful campaigns into the Sasanian Empire, in the course of 
which he recovered the relics of the Cross (which had been taken 
by the Persians when they captured Jerusalem in 614). 

- Anonymous hagiographical texts from this period include 
the Life of the East Syrian Catholicos Sabrisho' (d.604) and the 
Life of Febronia of Nisibis [ET], 


Although with hindsight the Arab invasions represent a fun- 
damental political break in the history of Western Asia, there is 
nevertheless very much a sense of continuity in Syriac writers of 
the period. 

(a) Second half 7th cent. 

50. SEVERUS SEBOKHT(W; d.666/7). Bishop of the mon- 
astery of Qenneshre, and one of the most learned men of his time in 
the fields of astronomy and philosophy. Several works of his in 
both these fields survive, notably treatises on the Astrolabe and on 
the Constellations, letters on points of logic addressed to Aitalaha 
of Nineveh and to a periodeutcs Yaunan, and a treatise on Syllo- 
gisms (written in 638); he also translated from Middle Persian a 
compendium on logic written by Paul the Persian for the Persian 
shah Khosro I (d.579). 

51. GABRIEL of QATAR (E; fl. mid 7th cent.). Author of 
an important commentary on the liturgy [pail ET]. 

52. ABRAHAM bar LIPEH of QATAR (E; fl. mid 7th cent.). 
Author of a short commentary on the liturgical Offices [LT]. 

53. ANONYMOUS (E; third quarter of 7th century). Un- 


Mid 7th / 13th Century 

known author of the Khuzistan Chronicle [LT; ET in preparation], 
covering the end of the Sasanian period and the beginnings of the 
Arab conquests. It has been suggested that the author of most of it 
is Elijah, bishop of Merv. 

54*. ISHO'YAHB m (E; d.659). Son of Bastomag of 
Kuplana (on the Greater Zab), a prominent landowner. He became 
a monk at the nearby monastery of Beth 'Abe, and c.627 was ap- 
pointed bishop of Nineveh. Some ten years later he was raised to 
metropolitan of Arbela, and in 649 he was appointed Catholicos. 
Lsho 'yahb is credited with extensive liturgical reforms, and among 
other things he limited the number of anaphoras in use to the cur- 
rent three (the Apostles Addai and Mari, Theodore, and Nestorius). 

- Letters [LTJ. The extensive, collection of 106 Letters pro- 
vide a great deal of information on the life of [he Church of the East 
at a critical time in its history, under the early years of Arab rule. In 
the manuscripts the letters are divided into three groups: those writ- 
ten while he was bishop (52), those from the time when he was 
metropolitan (32), and those belonging to his office as Catholicos 
22); in some cases, however, the allocation is certainly incorrect. 

- Life of Isho'sabran, a martyr from the last years of the Sasa- 
nian Empire. 

55*. ISAAC of NINEVEH (ISAAC the SYRIAN). (E; fl. 
end 7ih century). Born and educated in Beth Qatraye, he became a 
monk and during the catholicosate of George (661-680/1 ) he was 
consecrated bishop of Nineveh (Mosul); five months later he re- 
signed and retired as a solitary to the mountains of Khuzistan, where 
he was associated with the monastery of Rabban Shabur. Through 
the Greek translation of the 'First Part' of his works he has proved 
to be the most influential of all Syriac monastic writers, and he 
continues to exert a strong influence in monastic circles in the twen- 
tieth century, especially on Mount Alhos and in the Egyptian desert 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
monasteries. The following are his surviving works: 

- 'The First Part' [ET]: this is a collection of 82 discourses 
of varying length and character (a few are in the form of questions 
and answers or are letters). Most of these discourses were trans- 
lated into Greek in the Chalcedonian monastery of St Saba in Pal- 
estine probably in the eighth century (the translators' names are 
known: Abramios and Patrikios). For some unexplained reason, 
five other texts by two other Syriac writers were also included in 
this translation under Isaac's name: four of these arc by John Saba 
(John of Dalyatha), and one is an abbreviated form of Philoxenos' 
Letter to Patrikios). Arabic translations were made from both the 
Syriac and from the Greek; the Greek was the source of many other 
translations, including Georgian and Slavonic in (he Middle Ages, 
and numerous other languages in modern limes. 

- 'The Second Part' [IT + ET); this contains 42 texts, of 
which the third consists of four 'Centuries' of Kephalaia (or 'Head- 
ings') on spiritual knowledge. Though there is evidence that this 
Second Part was read in Chalcedonian monastic circles, it was never 
translated into Greek, and indeed it was only in recent years that a 
complete manuscript of the Syriac original has come to light. 

- 'Book of Grace* [ET of excerpts]: it is uncertain whether 
this work (not yet published) is really by Isaac: it is quite possible 
that it is by his contemporary Shem'on the Graceful. 

56. SHEM'ON the GRACEFUL (Shem'on d-Taybutheh; E; 
late 7th century): He gained fame as a medical doctor in the time of 
the Catholicos Hnanisho' (680-700); He subsequently became a 
monk and was a disciple of Rabban Shabur. A number of short 
writings on the spiritual life survive [part ET, IT]. Among the 
topics he covers are: the withdrawal of grace as a result of error; 
the three noetic altars according to the teaching of the Fathers; the 
faculties oflhe inner person, and their working; different kinds of 


Mid 7th / 13th Century 

prayer; the .structure of the heart and its workings (containing a 
physical description as well). 

57.DADISHO' (E; late 7th cent.). Like Isaac, Dadisho' 
originated from Beth Qatraye, and was later connected with the 
Monastery of Rabban Shabur. His surviving works include: 

- Commentary on the Asceticon of Abba Isaiah [FT]. 

- Commentary on the Paradise of the Egyptian Fathers, 
compiled by 'Enanisho' (unpublished except for a few excerpts). 

- On the Solitude of the Seven Weeks [ET]. This deals 
with the theme of stillness (hesychia) during solitary retreats lasting 
seven weeks. 

- Various other shorter texts on the spiritual life [ET]. 


58. JOHN/IOHANNAN bar PENKAYE (E; late 7th cent.). 
His epithet indicates that his parents were from Fenek, on the Tigris 
(E. of Tur 'Abdin). He was a monk, first of the monastery of Mar 
John of Kamul, and then of the monastery of Mar Bassiina. Later 
writers confused him with John Saba/John of Dalyatha. Several 
works of his survive (for the large part unedited); of these the most 
important is; 

- Ktaba d-rish melle, or summary history of the world, in 15 
books (ET, FT of Book 1 5). The first four books cover from cre- 
ation to Herod the Great; book 5 is on demons; 6-8 are largely on 
typology in the Old Testament; book 9 concerns cults of pagan 
peoples (with some important information on Zoroasttianism); 1 0- 
13 are devoted to the life of Christ and of his disciples; book 14 
covers the history of the Church up to the Arab conquests, while the 
final book concerns the last decades of the seventh century (for 
which period it constitutes a rare contemporary local source). 

59. ANONYMOUS (Pseudo-Methodius), Apocalypse [ET, 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
GT], This immensely influential apocalypse was probably com- 
posed c.691 in north Mesopotamia; it was soon translated into 
Greek, and then into Latin, where it had a great influence on other 
apocalyptic writings. Within a brief space it compasses from cre- 
ation to the writer's present time when he sees the Islunaelites (i.e. 
Arabs) as heralding the advent of the last limes; it is at this point 
that the apocalypse proper commences, dealing with the last Ro- 
man (Byzantine) emperor, the advent of the : son of perdition', and 
the final victory over him as the Cross ascends to heaven, together 
with the imperial crown. The work makes use of a number of 
earlier Syriac works, notably the Cave of Treasures, the 'Julian 
Romance' and the poem on Alexander. 



- Life of Rabban bar Tdla (E; d.6 1 2). A prose Life by John 
the Persian (third quarter of 7th cent.) is known only in a verse 
resume of the I Ith cent.[ET]. 

- Life of Rabban Hormizd (E; 6th/7th cent.). A prose life is 
attributed to a monk Shem'on (7th cent.) [ET]; there are also two 
much later verse lives. 

- Life of Maximus the Confessor (W; d.662). A hostile 
monothclete Life [ET] of this dyothelete confessor was probably 
produced within a few decades of Maximus' death; according to 
this, Maximus originated from Palestine, and not Constantinople 
(as stated in the Greek Life). 

(b) 7th/8th cent. 

61*.JACOBofEDESSA(W; c.640-5 vi708). Born at 'En 
Deba in the Antioch region, he studied first under Severos Sebokht 
at the monastery of Qenneshrc on the Euphrates, and then in Alex- 
andria. He was appointed bishop of Edessa c.684, but resigned 


Mid 7th / 13th Century 

owing to the the lax attitude of the hierarchy concerning the obser- 
vance of the canons. He retired first to a monastery at Kaisura 
(near Samosata), but was subsequently invited to the monastery of 
Eusebona where he taught Greek and other subjects for 1 1 years. 
The presence there of a group of monks hostile to Greek studies led 
eventually to his departure for the monastery of Tell 'Ada, where 
he spent 9 years, during which he worked on his revision of the 
Syriac Old Testament. On the death of bishop Habbib, his succes- 
sor in the see of Edessa, Jacob returned to Edessa again as bishop 
but 4 months later, on a visit to Tell 'Ada to collect his books, he 
died. His surviving works are: 

- Commentary on the Hexaemeron (six days of creation) [LTJ. 
This learned work, incorporating a great deal of scientific materi- 
als, was left unfinished a\ his death, but was completed by Georee, 
bishop of the Arab tribes. 

- Scholia on the Old Testament [part ET]. 

- Liturgical revisions: these include the anaphora of James, 
the baptismal rite attributed to Severus, and the consecration of" 
the water at Epiphany. 

- Exposition of the Liturgy. 

- Treatise on the Myron [ET]. 

- Canons, often in the form of questions and answers r oart 
ET]. ' ' 

- Chronicle; only fragments survive. Jacob covered up to 
691/2, and a later hand supplemented up to 709/10. [LT], 

- Letters, on a wide variety of learned subjects. A group 
of seventeen are addressed to John the Stylite of Litarba. 

- A philosophical Enchiridion, or handbook of philosophi- 
cal terms. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

- A Grammar, of which only fragments survive. Jacob 
was the deviser of a predecessor of the present West Syrian sys- 
tem of vowel signs. 

- An apologia against the Chalccdonian clergy of Harran 
(written while he was still a deacon). 

- Some verse letters, two of which are addressed to a cer- 
tain Qurisona. 

Jacob was also a translator and careful reviser of earlier 
translations. His translations include theTesiamentum Domini, 
the Acts of the Council of Carthage in 256 (Jacob's translation is 
dated 686/7), and the History of the Rechabites. His revisions 
of earlier translation cover Severus' Cathedral Homilies (in 700/ - 
1), and Hymns (often misleadingly know as the 'Octoechos'), 
Aristotle's Categories, and several books of the Old Testament; 
for the last he combined elements of the Pcshitla, Syro-Hexapla, 
and at the same time made use of some Greek manuscripts. 

62*.GEORGE, bishop of the ARAB TRIBES (W; d. Feb. 
724). George was a disciple of Athanasius II, and became Syrian 
Orthodox bishop of the Christian Arab Tribes in 686. He is the last 
representative of the Syrian Orthodox scholar bishops of the sev- 
enth century who were well grounded in Greek scientific and philo- 
sophical studies. His surviving works consist of the following: 

- the completion of Book 7 of Jacob of Edessa's Commen- 
tary on the Six Days of Creation (Hexaemeron), which Jacob had 
left unfinished at his death. [LT], 

- a revised translation, accompanied by introductions and 
commentaries, of the earlier books of Aristotle's logical works 
(Lhe Organon). 

- scholia on the Homilies of Gregory of Nazianzus. 


8th Century 

- a commentary on the liturgy (comprising baptism and 
the eucharisl [ET]; and the myron [GT]). 

- a collection of letters. These are of great interest and 
deal with a variety of topics, among which are: the identity of 
Aphrahal, and his views on the human soul and spirit; chrono- 
logical and astronomical matters; difficult passages in the letters 
of Jacob of Edessa. [GT]. 

- a verse homily (memra) on Sevcrus of Amioch [ET1. A 
number of other memre are attributed to George, but there is uncer- 
tainty concerning their authenticity (the one on the myron is also 
attributed to Jacob of Serugh in some manuscripts), 

(c) 8th cent. ^ 

63. ANONYMOUS author of 'Diyarbekir Commentary' (E; 
early 8th cent.?). A manuscript once in Diyarbekir contains an im- 
portant anonymous commentary on Genesis and Exodus 1-9 [FT]. 

64. SERGIUS the STYLITE of Gnsil (W; early 8th cent.). 
Author of an apologetic treatise against the Jews [ET], 

65. ELIA (W; first half 8th cent.). Author of a Letter, ad- 
dressed to Leo of Hanan [LT], setting out in 12 sections the reasons 
why he left the Chalcedonians and became Syrian Orthodox. 

66*. JOHN ofDALYATHA (JOHN SABA). (E; fl. mid 8th 
cent.). There has been considerable confusion over the identity of 
this monastic writer, but it now appears that John of Dalyalha is the 
same person as John Saba (the Elder), but quite different from John 
of Phenek. He seems to be been born in N.Iraq and became a 
monk in the region of Mount Qardu (where Noah's Ark landed, 
according to the Peshitta, following Jewish tradition). His epithet 
'of Dalyatha (the vine tendrils)' probably derives from the name of.- 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
his monastery. Nothing is known of the details of his life, but his 
writings indicate that he was someone with a profound experience 
of the mystical life. Four short texts by him were translated into 
Greek along with the works of Isaac of Nineveh and so circulate in 
Greek (and dependent translations) under Isaac's name. 

- Letters [FT]: variously numbered as 48 or 5 1 . 

- Discourses, or Homilies: again, variously numbered as 25 or 28. 

- Kephalaia, or Pleadings on Spiritual Knowledge. 

Only the first of these three groups of texts has so far been 


67*. JOSEPH HAZZAYA (the SEER). (E; 11. mid 8th cent.). 
His parents were Zoroastrians. At the age of seven he was laken 
captive in a raid and sold as a slave, first to an Arab in Sinjar, and 
then to a Christian in the Qardu area; there, impressed by the life of 
the monks at the monastery of John of Kamul, he sought baptism, 
and then, being liberated by his owner, he became a monk in Beth 
Nuhadra. After a period living as a solitary, he was made superior 
of the monastery of Mar Bassima in the Qardu region for a while, 
after which he again spent time as a solitary, but was then again 
made superior of a monastery (that of Rabban Bokhtisho'). His 
brother also converted to Christianity, with the name 'Abdisho', 
and many of Joseph's writings were transmitted under his brother's 
name. In his Catalogue of Syriac writers 'Abdisho' of Nisibis men- 
tions numerous works by Joseph, but only a few have survived, of 
which the following have been published): 

- Letter on the Three Degrees of the Spiritual Life [ET, FT]. 
This schematic work, which suivives in a longer and a shorter form, 
has often been attributed to Philoxenus of Mabbug in the manu- 
scripts, but cannot possibly belong to that writer, and Joseph seems 
most likely to be its Hue author. 


8th Century 

- Shorter texts on different topics of the Spiritual life [ET]. 

68. ABRAHAM BAR DASHANDAD, 'the Lame' (E; fl.mid 
8th cent.). Originating from Beth Sayyade, he became head of the 
School of Bashosh, later moving to Marga, and then Mosul at the 
Monastery of Mar Gabriel (later, thanks to his fame, known as 'of 
Mai- Abraham and Mar Gabriel'). He taught both Timothy I and 
Isho' bar Nun. He is author of a monastic letter addressed to his 
younger brother, John [ET] . 

69*. ANONYMOUS author of the Zuqnin Chronicle (W; 
flc.776). An unknown monk of the monastery of Zuqnin (near 
Amid) was the author of an important world Chronicle (sometimes 
known as the Chronicle of Ps.Dionysius of Tcl-Mahre) [LT + FT]. 
The earlier parts of the work draw on many different sources; thus 
for the biblical period the author makes use notably of the Syriac 
translation of Eusebius' Chronicle and an intriguing legend about 
the origin of the Magi; for the years 495-507 a local Edessene 
chronicle (usually known today as the Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite 
[ET; = 25 above]) is incorporated wholesale; while for the sixth 
century much is based closely on the lost second part of John of 
Ephesus' Ecclesiastical History [ET; = 34 above] . For the eighth 
century the author draws considerably on his own knowledge and 
experience of events [FT; ET forthcoming]. 

70*. THEODORE bar KONI (E; late eighth cent.). Teacher 
at the School of Kashkar in Beth ' Aramaye (near the Arab city of al- 
Wasit). A single work of his survives: 

- 'Book of the Scholion* [FT], completed in 792. This con- 
sists of 1 1 memre, 1-9 concern specific questions to do with the Old 
Testament (1-5) and New Testament (6-9), arranged according to 
the sequence of the books; included within these memre are anura- 
ber of sections on philosophical terms, so that the work as a whole 
serves as a kind of introductory text book on theology and philoso- 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
phy, taking the Bible as its basis. Memre 10 and 1 1 are probably 
later additions, 10 being an apology for Christianity directed to- 
wards Muslims, while 1 1 is an account of different heresies (incor- 
porated in this are some important quotations from Mandaean reli- 
gious texts). The work comes down in two recensions (which may 
represent two successive editions going back to the author). 

(d) 8th/9th cent. 

71* TIMOTHY I. (E; c.728 - 823). Born in Hazza (in 

Adiabene), 12 kms SW of Arbela. His education was put in the 
hands of his father's brother, George, bishop of Beth Baghash: he 
was sent to the famous school at Bashosh run by Abraham bar 
Dashandad, and when Abraham moved first to Marga and then to 
the monastery of Mar Gabriel in Mosul, Timothy followed him. 
Probably between 766 and 770 he was consecrated bishop of Beth 
Baghash. After the death of the Catholicos Hnanisho' in 778/9 there 
were disputes over the succession, and eventually Timothy was 
elected (779) and consecrated Catholicos (7th May 780). Some 
opposition remained, but in the end reconciliation with the aggrieved 
parties was achieved (by c.782). Timothy's extensive collection of 
Letters provides some vivid insights into the life of the Church of 
the East at (he time of some of the most famous Abbasid caliphs. 

- 59 Letters are preserved ('Abdisho' mentions the number 
of 200). [LT for 1-39]; Letters 42, 44-46, 49-58 remain unpub- 
lished]. The collection is not in chronological order. The majority 
are addressed to his friend and former fellow student, Sergius: 14- 
20, 28-33, 37-40, 44 and 49 are 1 addressed to him as 'Sergius, priest 
and doctor', while for 3, 5;"7, 8, 11 , 13, 21-25, 46-48, 52-55, 57-59 
Sergius is styled 'metropolitan of Elam' . The contents of these 
may be approximately classified as follows: 


ecclesiastical affairs: 3-13, 15-17, 21-25, 27-32, 35, 44-47, 



8th / 9th Century 

ton. mwrffc^S* "z Bm : a r aia,Psiilmsom ^ 

c OU , 1 :lo~"" tha,, ^ t ° t *"PM-°Pheratc ll eca Ii ph. s 

- on theological topics' 34 ao a i / jj 
of Mar Maron, [FT]), 42 ' (addressed to the monks 

»«» £5^E23££2r~ heM ,n commo "' pri 
don),;9tr g ' a ( r z:r36 2 / tte i; ,1, ' ,4(fe,i -° f ™-* 

grammar), 36 (miscellaneous topics) 

-A collection of 48 Canons rLTOTi -r l 
havebeenresnonsibleforrolw U T,molh y may also 

s^ods and their calZT 8 *' lhe *** <* earlier 
Synodieon Oriental" ' C ° ileCtIOn known '"day as the 

Ttaoth yI )„ nderAbrah i"- htdS fr died <al0nS WMl 
tau 8tUttheSchooli„SeleueiaaS S f 8 *! ™^ he briefly 
• ™* a. the monastery „ S Ata l b :" to lef "° be »™ 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
It is uncertain whether he is to be identified as the Isho'dad bar 
Nun, bishop of Ram Hormizd, mentioned in Timothy's Letters. He 
was consecrated Catholicos on 6 July 823. His surviving works 
(only a few of which have been published) are: 

- Select Questions on the Old and New Testaments [ET for 
some of those on Pentateuch]. This may be just a selection from a 
larger work now lost. 


Juridical decisions concerning marriage, inheritance etc. 

- A grammatical work. 

- Consolatory homilies (fragments only). 

- Letters to the periodeutes Ishaq of Beth Qatraye, and to 8 
the deacon Makarios, on liturgical matters. 

Four questions on works of the Solitary Fathers. 

(e) 9th cent. 

73*.JOBofEDESSA(E; 11 early 9th cent.). He is known 
to have been born in Edessa, and to have been a contemporary of 
the Catholicos Timothy I (d.823). Himayn ibn Ishaq mentions him 
as a translator into Syriac of works by Galen. The two works by 
Job that survive are both scientific in character: 

- The Book of Treasures [ET], in six books, covering 
metaphysics, psychology, physiology, medicine, chemistry, phys- 
ics, mathematics, meteorology and astronomy. 

- On Canine Hydrophobia (unpublished). 

In the course of the Book of Treasures Job mentions various 
other works that he had written, on cosmology, the soul, syllogisms, 
the senses, medicine (on urine), and the Faith. None of these, 


9th Century 
however, survive. 

Dionysius f Te S (X ? r ^ eXCept ** tllC Pal ™<* 
^ dost) to hinXSSrt'T Ec ^siastical His- 
Published so Jar. thc works 1,sled bei ™ has been 

- Commentary on the Liturgy, fa , 0ur books [Frj ' j 

- On the Soul. 

-On the Resurrection of bodies. 

- On Priesthood. 

-On Paradise. * 

- On Creation. 

- Against heretics. 

- The Resurrection of Christ 

- On Pentecost. 

- On the Finding of the Cross. 

- On the Divine Economy. 

- On Demons. 

-On the Doctrine of the Christians. 
the author of one of the mn*i 1!,1 CB Ou>bcosae in 852. He is 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
ian writer to draw on readings of Aquila, Symmachus and 
Theodotion, to be found in the margin of the Syrohexapla. 

76. NONNUS (W; |1. mid 9th cent.). Archdeacon of Nisibis; 
his chief fame lay in his successfully combating the Chalcedonian 
leaching of* Theodore Abu Qurra at the court of the Armenian 
Bagratid king Ashot. At Ashot's request he wrote a Commentary 
on John (in Arabic, but based on Syriac sources) which was then 
translated into Armenian (in which it alone survives). Four other 
theological works, all written in Syriac, are extant: 

- Apologetic treatise [LT], responding to three questions 
concerning the Trinity and Incarnation (the standpoint of the 
questioner is unclear). 

- A treatise against Thomas of Marga (on vvh0m.vS.5p 19 
below), in 4 books. ■ , 

- Two letters. 

Only the first of these texts has been published. 

77*. ANTON of TAGRIT (W; probably 9th cent.). 
Barhebraeus supposed that Anton (whom he calls a monk) was a 
contemporary of the patriarch Dionysius of Tell Mahrc (d.22 Aug. 
845), but it seems that he had nothing beyond oral tradition to go on 
fortius; nevertheless, a ninth-century date seems quite likely. His 
surviving works are: 

- On (he Science of Rhetoric, in five books [ET for Book 5]. 
Anton's states that his aim in writing this important work was to 
refute those 'who call our Syriac language meagre, narrow, stunted 
and feeble, and who designate our literature as poor and niggardly". 
So far, only Book 5, on metres and on rhetorical figures, has been 

- On Providence (unpublished). 


9th Century 

- On the Myron (unpublished). 

- Consolatory letters (unpublished) 

lie is certainly vvrilinp aiW ai ■ t lLTJ a,c -""known: 

polttan ofMoail and Arbrh \Z , t '"™""l' & »'E'. metro- 
year; 2, various IJttmrirai *» .■ / I . the btuigfcal 

(«.n S ec ra ,i„ ■ Xe d ;J , ri" ' "" "" ft? "' Qudd ^ ' id "> 
11 P''' LM «s. 7, on funeral and marriage ri[cs . 

7"*.™0MAS,„i s |,„ pofMAR0A(E:nni ^ i|icen|) 
■■ *£Z SSSii 6 ^ IETJ - Wi—h. work for 

80. ISHO'DNAH (E- n r Stem ** 
Maishan (Basra). C ' 860) ' M *">P<*ta« of Prat d- 

collection ol'HO shon not ir-^,.. . Arabs fFT '- Tins is a 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
81 . ANONYMOUS (E; late 9th cent.) author of commen- 
tary on Old and New Testaments, of which only the section cover- 
ing Gen. 1- 1 8 has so far been published [ET1. 

82*.MOSHEBARKEPHA(W; b.C.833; d. 12 Feb. 903). 
He was born in Balad (modem Eski Mosul) in N Iraq, and educated 
at the Monastery of Mar Sargis (known as 'the Hanging Monas- 
tery') in the "Dry Mountain' some 15 kms NE of Balad. c.863 he 
was made bishop of Beth Raman, Beth Kiyonaye and Mosul (i.e. 
his diocese covered the area along the Tigris S of Mosul and N of 
Tagrit). An extensive number of writings survive, in three main 
fields, exegesis, theology, and liturgy; many of these have not yet 
been published. 


- Commentary on the Six Days of Creation (Hexaemeron), 
in 5 books. [Only pails of the Syriac text have been published, but 
there is a complete GT1. 

- Commentary on Paradise, in 3 books. (This was one of the 
earliest Syriac texts to be studied by European scholars, and was 
translated into Latin by Andreas Masius in 1569; the Syriac text 
remains unpublished). [LT]. 

- Introduction to the Psalter. [FT]. 

- Commentary on Matthew, Luke, John, Acts and the 
Pauline Epistles. [Only those on John and on Romans have so 
far been published, with GT]. 

Theological (Syriac texts all unpublished): 

- On the Soul (41 chapters). [GT only]. 

- On Resurrection (34 chapters). 

- On the creation of angels (45 chapters). 


10th Century 

^ nthehie ^yofan g ei s(I6 ^ 

" Un predestination and free will. 

- On priesthood ftfm u,n r i, i . 
Dara). lUM W ° rk » aJso attributed to John of 

-Co mmentaryo „ [hebaptl - smaIr . te 

" Comment onl „ eeucha . sticE 
■Con, mMlilryonlt , econsecrat . ono| , £ l T 

-Co mmenlary . myion. |GTJ. 

deacon.). [LTJ. * "" 0,tl " U " 1M rit « (for bishops, priesB, 

-Co mra e„, ao , onthec]oth]n6o( . mon|(j 
-C™ me ,u a , Tonmc#or[hedc(] . ca . on( 

Comm ^™ the funeral rite* '"' 

• Commentary on Ule heavenly and e, n l„ ■ 

- An instruction to th, m , Y p ' 1Kttl °°«- 

-Aeon • Kmembersofl teChnmh 

*»»«««. of 38 honulta. fET.FTinparO 

ABook„n lneCausesoniKFeMs 

CO 10th cenf. 

83 - ELIJAH of ANBARr-p- n « , 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
The content, which could be described as gnomic, is strongly influ- 
enced by the Dionysian Corpus. 

84*. ANONYMOUS author (W; lOih cent.?) of the Book of 
the Cause of Causes [GT], The author identifies himself as abishop 
of Edessa who resigned and retired to a contemplative life; as a 
result he has sometimes been identified as Jacob of Edessa, but this 
is impossible, as the author clearly lived several centuries later. The 
work seeks to be 'a book in common for all peoples under heaven, 
on knowledge of truth, how it is known'; it deals with wide theo- 
logical problems of the relationship between God and humanity, 
and, in a remarkable attempt at inter-faith dialogue, seeks to present 
specifically Christian doctrines, such as the Trinity, in a way that 
might be acceptable to Jews and Muslims. 

85 . EMMANUEL bar SH AHHARE (E; II second half 1 OlFi 
cent.). Author of an extensive unpublished verse commentary on 
the Hexacmeron (Six days of Creation). 

(g) 11th cent. 

86. ELIJAH of NTSIBIS (E; 1 1 Feb 975 - 18 July 1046). 
Born at Shenna (hence sometimes known as Elia bar Shinaya), he 
was ordained priest in 994, and studied at the monastery of Mai- 
Michael, near Mosul. In 1002 he was appointed bishop of Beth 
Nuhadra, and in 1008 as Metropolitan of Nisibis. He wrote prima- 
rily in Arabic, but used Syriac in composing a number of liturgical 
prayers (still in use). Both Syriac and Arabic feature in I wo works: 

- Chronography [FT, LT]. This important work contains 
short excerpts from many earlier sources otherwise lost; much 
of it is taken up with elaborate tables. 

- An Arabic-Syriac glossary, entitled The Interpreter', to 
facilitate the teaching of Syriac. 


12th Century 

Ch) 12th cent. 

*7* h Dl °NYSrUS BAR SALI bi (W d 1 1 7 n » 
probably born in Melitenp fM,i , ^ "■"/]). He was 

and Syriac culture Yn h Lt n ^ ' ^^ P ° int f °' &4 
** Jacob. He wa ' ^ C , entLU ' y ' !* bapE,Smal na ™ be- 

wWj * ep.scopal iKSSKl .i^ h (GenMnik * 
M'chael I to the patriarchate m^ , Aite ^ ^e accession p| 
Amid. Known to £ 2SM t ' he"/' metr ° POlita0 1 
Sto of his generation and a ph n , o' fr r T™ d ° Ct0r " ^ 
was one of the most learned wT llke Jacob of Edes ^', he 
ers of the twclft l^Z t S V ° IUm,nous S ^ Orthodox writ- 
century. His mam surviving works are- 

' '^ raentaiy0ntheOId ^^ntC m ostl y unpubl 1S hed) 

-Commentary on the New Testament [LT] 

earlier commenatators both C^w- c * ° n * Breu «>** of 
(including cmJ^Jgg* S ^ Ration) and S y riac 

commentary on the OJ Tes ■mem *? ^ Mudl of ^ 

- Commentary on the Liturgical Offices [LTj J 

-Comments on theBap t is m aniturg y(linpublished) 

- i nrec anaphoras. 

J ' MeIkltes f ET J.andNestorians(unpublrshed) 
-Commentary on Evagrius' Centuries 

-Penitential Canons [LTJ. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Among works by Dionysius barSalibi which have been lost 
are: a chronicle, a treatise on Providence, a compendium of theol- 
ogy, commentaries on the works of various Greek Fathers, letters 
and poems. 

88. ELIJAH m ABU HALIM (E; d. 12 Apr 1190). 

Bishop of Maipherqat, then metropolitan of Nisibis, and finally 
Catholicos (1 176). He wrote in both Arabic and Syriac, the latter 
being used for his collection of prayers for the morning Office 
throughout the liturgical year - (manuscripts containing these are sim- 
ply called 'Abu Halim'). 

89*. MICHAEL the GREAT (W; d.1199). Syrian Or- 
thodox Patriarch from 1 166-1199. He was born in Melitene, and 
before being elected Patriarch was Superior of the Monastery of 
Barsauma in the region of Melitene. Besides revising the Syrian 
Orthodox Pontifical and editing the Life of Abhai, bishop of Nicaea, 
he is the author of the most extensive of all Syriac world Chronicles 
[FT], covering from Creation to his own day. Incorporated into 
mis massive work are many documents not preserved in other 
sources. For the seventh and early eighth centuries he made con- 
siderable use of the lost Ecclesiastical History by one of his prede- 
cessors as Patriarch, Dionysius of Tel-Mahre (8 1 8 - 22 August 845). 

(i) 13th cent. 

90. IOHANNANBARZO'BI(E; late I2th/early 13th 
cent.). Monk of the monastery of Beth Qoqa in Adiabene, and one 
of the most learned East Syriac writers of his time. Very few of his 
writings have yet been edited; these include a verse commentary 
of baptism and the eucharist, and various works on grammar and 
philosophy, in both prose and verse. 

91 . SOLOMON of BOSRA (E; fl. early 1 3th century). 
Born at Akhlat on Lake Van at an unknown dale, he was already 


13th Century 

come mp „ rary ev^cm c o u rr™' 11 ' l,f "*» l> "ems deal J8 

«' "*. and manasita "™ T* "^ ad °>" ed fw '»"li- 

•WW.' Otoe). T, p " 'a" T S ? '"* known ^ "" »'™ 

ten published ' 2 > '" h,s c ' ' -■*» l"*n B have so fat 

Syriac world Cbroa c I * a a 1 „ r r Tr ! m|WB " m an<1 MtoBi ^ 
PT], probably carae rSiX £? ^J?" *> c - l2 ** BT + 
comaias several gaps) j, „,',„;,, K ""* (whfc * ""fonaaaiely 
™..e,s, ,„e „,„e; ,„ 4cu", r aTS T £ ™ ed ,0 "*»tefi4 
early biblical period i B « 3f ,"" !"" " C « lo '' «* 

™» " nude of the Ion fi*SS? ?'"" cc, " llncs ™«* 
Mahre. "^lesiasncal History by Dioaysius of Tel- 

scholar lohannan barZo^ ', * * Under the E ™ Syriac 
<«"fer a Muslim scholal i M u k T^ of Betl1 Q°1°> and 

the monastery of Mar 2 1 "*"*»*& became bishop of 
Hissun-ivi, 1 / WOrk ,:;;, M ' maK WllJl " le episcopal name Sevens. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
llic incamaiion; 3, on divine providence; and 4, on the creation of 
[he world (covering angels, stars, geography, natural history, etc., 
ending up with the consitution of the human person and the soul, 
antichrist, the resurrection of the body, and the last judgement. The 
. work remains unpublished. 

- Ktobo d-Dialogu, 'Book of Dialogues'. This is arranged in 
books; the first covers: I, grammar; 2, rhetoric; 3, poetry and 
res; 4, eloquence and the richness of the Syriac language. The 

second book deals with: 1 , logic and syllogisms; and 2, philosophy 
(divided up into live sections: (a) definitions and divisions of phi- 
losophy; (b) philosophical life and conduct; (c) physics and physi- 
ology; (d) arithmetic, music, geometry, mathematics; and (e) meta- 
physics and theology). Only excerpts of this work have so far been 
published. -r.j. 

-Two letters written in verse. 

- A symbol of faith. 


(W; 1225/6 - 30 vii 1286). Alongside Ephrem. perhaps the most 
famous of all Syriac writers. He was born in Mclitcne and was the 
son of a doctor Ahron who has been assumed to have been a con- 
vert from Judaism (hence the name Barhebracus): his baptismal 
name was Yuhanon, but he subsequently took the name Grcgorius 
when he was appointed at a very young age as bishop of Gubos 
(1246); he later became bishop of Aleppo (1253), and was eventu- 
ally appointed Maphrian of the East (1264). He died in Maragha 
(NW Iran). 1 le was a polymath of extraordinarily wide learning in 
virtually eveiy subject that was studied in his lime. He wrote both 
in Syriac and in Arabic, and had a good knowledge of Greek, Arme- 
nian, Persian, and perhaps some ol Coptic and Hebrew. In his 
Ecclesiastical History (11,43 1 -486) he has left a considerable amount 
of autobiographical information, and this was supplemented after 
his death by his brother Barsaunia, who also gives a list of his wrii- 


13th Century 

Sfeit' ; "', d Pc ' sia " maKa '" *» ™ <£ 

doors (called foundations' >. with the following titles: 
I. On knowledge, straightforwardly 

H. On 
'II, On theology (i.e. on the Trinity). 
IV. On the incarnation of God the Word. 
^ V, On knowledge of the heavenly being, namely the aa- 

VI, On the earthly priesthood. 
VO, On the evil spirits, or demons. 
VIA, On the rational soul. 

IX. On ireewill undl.heny, and on fate,, and Lhecnd. 

X, On the resurrection of the dead. 

good 2 t°:™, e " d ' "" Jl,l,se, " ml ' ■"' "" lhc ™* <* * 

XII, On the paradise of Eden. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

I, On the Creation in six days. 

II, On theology (i.e. on the Trinity). 

III, On the incarnation. 

IV, On angels. 

V, On evil spirits. 

VI, On the soul. 

VII, On priesthood. 

VIII, On freewill and the end. 

IX, On the end of die two worlds, microcosm and macro- 
cosm, and on the beginning of the New World. 

X, On Paradise | FT | . 

- 'OsarRo/.c, ~ Treasure of Mysteries' [ET for Pentateuch and 
New Testament |. This is more a systematic collection ol" notes, 
rather than a commentary, on all the books of the Syriac Bible. There 
is a strong philological and textual interest. 

- Ktobo d-Hudoye, 'Book of Guides' (also known as the 
Nomocanon) |LT], This is a collection of Canon Law, arranged 
thcmatically for convenience of use. The work is set out in 40 
chapters, the earlier ones concerning ecclesiastical matters, and the 
later ones concerning lay affairs (inheritance, business dealings, in- 
terest, irrigation rights, theft, homicide etc.). 

- Klobo d-Itiqon, "Book of Ethics", with the sub-title "on ex- 
cellence of conduct, according to the opinion of the desert fathers 
and the tested teachers'. The work is set out in four discourses, the 
first two dealing with exterior knowledge ('the work of the limbs'), 
tlie last two with interior knowledge ("the work of the heart'): 

I (with 9 chapters), on liturgical prayer, manual work, scrip- 


13th Century 

»»i rei «ii„ e , vi g ii s , psalmody _ rasts pjlgrimage e|c (ft] 

merc-c, and almigMng ""'"• ma " 1 "" WOrk - com - 

- Ktobo d-Yawno, 'Book of the Dove' TFTi tk- 
lour chapters, describes ih P v,,-- ,- l '" Th, swork,i n 

^nh cl'ap tc co u i 1S , ,r IS i° rmS °'' the aSCCtic m « «* 
ences. "' IMte ,aI based on his °wn spiritual expert 

ti,, i;a K cszs^ ; B , ook ,° f the cam "*■-*»■■ 

foorboote yC ' 0| '" Ldl " "' A^oteta philosophy, set out in 

i.e. I , Porpl yry , E "IL „ ?^ ttd '™ m ■ >«*< 'he .sixth cenu^ 

Poetics. P • 7 - S °Pl»Sllcs; 8. Rhetorics; 9, 

»• on the physical world, in 13 parts. 
"I. on Metaphysics, in 2 parts. 

IV on practical philosophy (covering Aristotle's Ethics 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

Economics, and Politics; also deals with physiognomy). 

Barhebraeus makes considerable use of Ibn Sina's 
(Avicenna's) Shifa', and (for the fourth book) of al Tusi's Ahlq-e 
Nasiri; he also preserves a number of quotations from Greek writ- 
ers whose works are otherwise lost. Only excerpts of this impor- 
tant work have so far been published. 

- Ktobo da-Swod Sufya [FT], 'Book of the Conversation 
of wisdom'. This is his middle-sized treatise on logic, the physi- 
cal world, and philosophy. 

- Ktobo d-Tegrat Tegroto, 'Book of the Treatise of Trea- 
tises'. This deals with logic, the physical world, and philosophy. 

- Ktobo d-Boboio, 'Book of the Pupils (sc. of the eye)". 
This is a summary introduction to logic. 

- Ecclesiastical History [LTJ. This is arranged in two parts, . 
the first dealing with the patriarchs of Antioch and the more 
westerly area (up to 1 285) , and the second with the area further 
east, covering both the Catholicoi of the Church of the East and 
the Syrian Orthodox Maphrians. The work also includes an 
autobiographical section. 

- Chronicle [ET]. This covers, in summary fashion, from 
Creation to Barhebraeus' own days. He also made an Arabic 
adaptation of this work for the benefit of a Muslim friend. 

- Ktobo d-Scmhe, 'Book of Splendours' [GT]. This is 
Barhebraeus' largest and most important work on grammar. 

- Ktobo d-Gramatiqi', 'Book of Grammar'. This is a 
grammar written in the seven-syllable metre. 

- Ktobo d-Balsusyoto, 'Book of Sparks'. This is a short 


Ktobo d-Suloqo Hawnonoyo [FT], 'Book of intellectual 


Ill I 

14th to 19 th Centuries 

ascent'. This work, composed in 1279 H«ic ■„ 

r# . J - ^/y, deals with astronomy. 

- Ktobo d-Tunoye Mfiahkon*. '»„ ■ r 

IETJ. This is a collection oAhor n B °° k °' amusi "g Tories' 

<™m earlier Souic^ m«4 ^ T "* ■**** derived 

Abu Sa'd al-Abi (d. e.lZ). ^ ™ dC ° f a Wo * by 

Barhehra^r:^! ^ ' he ~e grammar, 
^ich thelon^LmS^wls^^ 6 '' ° f ^ H 

■ An Anaphora. 

cen°tSs ENTH TO n ' n ™™ 

13th/14th cent. £ 

*•&* B» B A T y °'f n ^ h BR r (E; * ,318 >- Bi ^ 

works arc; and ^J^ h, s surviving Syriac 

.he,,,^"™" ,LT '' <*"*>*« "Synodic,, canons, „ mged 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
with a commentary, seeing that he made use of a large number of 
rare and obscure words. 

- Metrical catalogue of Syriac writers [ET, LT]. This work is 
an invaluable source of information, especially about lost works by 
Syriac authors. In the course of this work (arranged chronologi- 
cally) he mentions a number of his own works which have not come 
down to us, notably a commentary on the Bible, a work on the dis- 
pensation of die life of Christ on earth, and one on heresies and on 

97. KHAMIS bar QARDAHE (E; late 1 3th/early 14th 

cent.). Served as priest in Arbela, and was a prolific poet, writing 
bodi religious and secular verse. Among other things he wrote a 
supplement to Barhebraeus' poem on Wisdom. His liturgical po- 
etry (especially his 'Onyatha) are transmitted in volumes specifi- 
cally entitled 'Khamis'. 


98. DIOSCORUS of GOZARTO (W; late 1 3th/early 
14th cent.). Monk of a monastery in Bartelli, he was consecrated 
bishop of Gozarto d-Qardu in 1285/6 by Barhebraeus; author of: 

- Verse life of Barhebraeus . 

- Anaphora. 

99. ANONYMOUS (E). An anonymous writer com- 
posed the History of Yahballaha and Rabban Sauma [ET, FT] shortly 
after the death of Yahballalia HI in 1317. This is a vivid account of 
how two monks from China were sent to the west as emissaries of 
the Mongol UKhan, one of whom was elected Catholicos, while 
the other (Rabban Sauma) journeyed on to Europe. The author 
was evidently an eyewitness of many of the events related, while 
for Rabban Sauma's journey to Europe he was able to make use of 
the latter's diary, which he sometimes reproduces verbatim. 

100. TIMOTHYII(E; d.1353). Metropolitan of Mosul, 


14th to 19th Centuries 
^ I h C „ ( i„ 1 3 la) Ca Ul „ licos , in ,, ccession , oYahha|]aha 

on tap,™ ET] fS Euch" , T^'™ °< ' d ""* * 

6, on ftrnerai ^ ', ™ *£ » S n ' °" m °" aStiC "'""^ 
. '. u'i [jt-nouiai ana niamage rites. 

E. 14th-19th CENTURY 

of lus SS? Si S;^ ta - **» »*4 

small number of wririnn, Zl I, , L by Khola,s ' 1 " Id only a 

Sbinna (Tu, 'Abdin, and his s ^fr^STS^" ° f Ba 

iormer'snoenis-iro^^,,! ( ' d - 1492 ): among the 

belongs lsl, aq QardAe SbS^ya E> « r o^ ' 5 ' ""^ 
Onyaiaand of a 1? r of several acrostic 

old writi Fr m ,r e i ^ ;%T n,ng many quotati ° ns *°* 

Tor «Abdin (W) a ho ol h »»««■*«■« Mas'ud, also of 
tual Shin'II Tl t theological poem entitled The Sniri 

(W) and Sarei, bar Wahle m ?' X aVld lhe p| >°™cian- 
Hormizd [ E | The tae ' fi t" T* ' Ve ' Se ,ife ° f R *an 
■» ,he begin i„L „ f *' n n h """^ sevemKm » ««"3 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
translation was made by the Maphrian Basil Ishaq Gobeyr (W; 
d,1721). Two outstanding winters inSyriac from this period are the 
Chaldean Patriarch Joseph II residing in Amid/Diarbekir (E; 
d.1731), author of The Magnet and The Shining Mirror (both widely 
read in manuscript), and Metropolitan Basiieios Shem'un of Tin 
'Abdin (W; martyred in 1740), author of a Book of Theology (17 14), 
The Ship of Mysteries (verse, on theological topics; 1 727/9), The 
Armour of Thanksgiving and Hope of Faith (1723, subsequently 
translated into Arabic), and many homilies and poems; Shem'un 
also compiled a dictionary based on the much earlier one by Bar 
Bahlul (late 10th cent.). 


The late 19th century witnessed a considerable revival of-lit- 
erary activity in Syriac. One outstanding figure was T'oma Audo, » 
Chaldean metropolitan of Urmia (E; 1853-1917), who, amongst 
many other things, was lhe compiler of an extremely valuable Syriao 
Syriac dictionary (1896; reprinted 1985). Other notable figures 
include the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Rahmani (W; 1 848- 1 929), 
the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ephrem Barsaum (W; 1 887- 1 957), 
and Metropolitan Philoxenos Yuhanon Dolabani (W; 1 885-1 969); 
it was Dolabani who translated into Syriac Barsaum's important 
History of Syriac Literature and Paulos Behnam's drama Theodora, 
both of which were originally written in Arabic. 

Several writers of the 20th century have used Syriac as a ve- 
hicle for secular literature; a pioneer in this field was Na'um Fa'yeq 
(W; 1868-1930), who founded the periodical Star of the East in 
1908. A number of translations into Syriac of western secular lit- 
erature has also been made, such as Bernardin de Saint Pierre's 
romantic novel Paul et Virginie, translated by Paulos Gabriel (W; 
d.1971) and Ghatta Maqdasi Elyas (W) and published (in 1955) 


Table of Authors 

under the title Myatrum <"v;,* n 

nclude MachiaveJIi-s P,, nc " Z^'^ rece "' translations 
^ ■« 1 1995. A considerable amourn- ^ pubUshed *SwJ 
J 'i both prose and verse cnnH Wntn « in a "»fca] Syria 


2nd/3rdcent * D .. 

*Peshuta OT 


*Old Syriac Gospels 

/Boo k °<'*e Laws of the Countries 
(School of BardaisaiO 
^Odes of Solomon 
* Acts of Thomas 
Melito 'the philosopher' 

Menander sentences 


*Aphrahat Cfl.337.345j 

*Ephrem (d.373) 
*Book of Steps 

*John the Solitary 


4th cent. 

5th cent. 


5th/6th cent. 

6th cent. 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

The Man of God (Alexis) 

Edessan Martyrs (Shmona, 

Gurya, Habbib) 

Teaching of Addai 

Legendary Edessan Martyrs 

(Barsamya, Sharbel) 

Euphemia and the Goth 

Persian Martyrs 

Symeon the Stylite 

'Julian Romance* 


Horn, on Abraham and Isaac 
*Narsai (E) 

* Jacob of Serugh (W; d.521) 
Simeon the Potter (W) 
*Philoxenus/Aksenoyo (W; d.523) 
* 'Isaac of Antioch' (W) 
Symmachus (W) 

ANON., Chron. of 'Joshua the Stylite' (W) 
Stephen bar Sudhaili (W) 
Sergius of Resh'aina (W; d.536) 
Simeon of Beth Arsham (W) 
Elias (W) 

♦Daniel of Salah(W) 
*Cyrus of Edessa (E) 
Thomas of Edessa (E) 
ANON, Chron. of Edessa (W) 
*John of Ephesus (W) 
Peter of Kallinikos (W) 
ANON. Chronicle of Pseudo-Zacharias 
Ahudemmeh (W?) 
Abraham of Nathpar (E) 
ANON., *Cave of Treasures etc. 



Table of Authors 
6th/7thcent. Rjlf , ,. , 

Barad eshabbaomalwan 


*Babanhe Great (E;d.628) 
iahdona/MartyriLi S (E) 

Marutha (W; ±649) 

Gregory of Cyprus (E) 
«~ 7* ce„, S^SSKS^ 1 ** ° ra '* 

Gabriel Qatraya (E) 

Abraham bar Lipeh (E) 
ANO N ., Khu2istan 

*Isho-yahbIII (E;d . 659) C(b) 
* Isaac of Nineveh (E) 
Shem'on the Graceful (E) 
John bar Penkaye (E) 
^^poca,y pseofP , Methodms; 

*JacobofEdes Sa( W;d.708) 
*** bishop of the Arab tribes (W; 

ANON 'Diyarbekir Commentary 7E) 
Scrgius the Stylite(W) ^ ( } 

Elia (W) 

*John of "Dalyatha/John Saba (E) 
Joseph Hamya/'the Seer" (E) 
Ab^ambarDashandad(E) U 1 

( ANON^uthorofZu q ninChron I cIe j 
*Theodore bar Koni (E) 

8th/9th cent. 
9th cent. 


8th cent 

10th cent. 

12th cent. 

13th cent. 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

Timothy I (E; d.823) 

*Isho" bar Nun (E; d.828) 

*Job of Edessa (E) 

*John of Dara (W) 


Nonnus of Nisibis (W) 

* Anton of Tagrit(W) 

*ANON„ Ps.George of Arbela 

Ttiomas of Marga (E) 

Isho'dnah (E) 

ANON., Commentary on OT, NT 

*Moshe bar Kepha (W; d.903) 

Elia (Elijah) of Anbar(E) 

*ANON., author of Book of the Cause 

of Causes (W) 

Emmanuel bar Shahhare (E) 

Elia (Elijah) of Nisibis (E; d.1046) 

♦Dicmysius bar Salibi (W; d. 1 1 7 1 ) 

Elia (Elijah) III Abu Halim (E; d. 1 190) 

♦Michael I, 'the Great' (W; ci. 1 199) 
Iohannan bar Zo'bi (E) 
Solomon of Bosra (E) 
Giwargis Warda (E) 
*ANON., author of Chronicle to year 
1234 (W) 

*Jacob Severus barShakko (W; 3.1241) 
*Barhebraeus/Bar 'Ebroyo/Abu '1 Farag 
(W; d.1286) 
I3th/14thcent.*'Abdisho' (E; d.1318) 

Khamis bar Qardahe (E) 
Dioscorus of Gozarto (W) 
ANON., History of Yahballaha III and 
Rabban Sauma (E) 
Timothy II (E; d. 1353) 


IV. ■ 


(a) BIBLE 

Londo " P °iyefo.Bihle(W 1657,. , H , ... 

Eduion published by the A mP ■ 
Urmiah (E; 1852) American mission's press in 

18s7 ^,on puHlshKlbylteDominicanpressmM ^ ](E 

New Testament wftj „ le A „™ , Siee s «Mon of bolh OU Z 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
British and Foreign Bible Society's edition of the New Testament 
(1920) 1U 

Old Testament 

(a) Peshitta 

A critical edition of the Peshitta translation of the Hebrew 
Bible is in the course of publication by the Peshitta Institute in 
Le,den (the Netherlands). The text is based on a manuscript of the 
6lh/7th century in the Arabrosian Library, Milan (sialunr7al ) and 
the variants of manuscripts prior to the 13th century are given in the 
apparatus (a few volumes include later manuscripts). The vol- 
umes that have been published so far are: 

1.1 Genesis, Exodus (1977) 

1.2 and H. 1 b Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua ( 1 99 1 ) 
II. la Job (1982) 

11.2 Judges, I- II Samuel (1978) 

11.3 Psalms (1980) 

11.4 HI Kings (1976) 

11.5 Proverbs, Wisdom, Ecclesiastes (Qohelet). Son* of 
Songs (1979) 

III.l Isaiah (1987) 

111.3 Ezekiel(I985) 

111.4 Twelve Prophets, Daniel (1980) 

IV.3 ApocalypeofBaruch; IV Ezra (1973) 

IV.6 Odes, Apocryphal Psalms, Psalms of Solomon, Tobit, 


Particular Topics 
(b) Syrohexapla 

AXeriani, Codex Syro-Hex;mhn c mot^ 
graphic edition oi a huge 2^„ f^ a P h °«<»H 

Sy r oi Kxa p,a i„ ,he Amlrosian Lto^Mta U,e SK °" d ''* ° f ' te , 

P-deUganie.BibliolhecaeSyriacne flgwv^n..- l 
survives of ,he Pentateuch and hi S ,oricTb„„ k ! ' Wha ' 

W.Bains,NewSyro-HexaplaricTexrsriOfis> ,„ , ■ 
Krial additional to de Lagardc's ednio,, ' '' COn,i "° S ""j 

fc) 'Syro-Lucianic' 

Sacra et Prqfana 5 ( 1 875). ' m Monurae "ia 

Part of another sixth-century translation, of the Son* of Sones 


(tf) 7«coA ofEdessa (d.708) 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Books of Samuel, by A.Salvesen, is shortly to be published. 

Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical Books 

These were all translated from Greek, with the exception of 
BarSira(Ecclesiasticus), which derives direct from the largely lost 
Hebrew original. The standard edition is by Lagarde (1961 ), 
but the texts will be found in the Mosul and United Bible Societ- 
ies' edition of the Peshitta. 

New Testament 

(a) Peshitta 

The best edition, based on old manuscripts, is that by the 
British and Foreign Bible Societies (1920 and reprints); its - 
text is incorporated into the United Bible Societies' edition of 
the whole Syriac Bible (1988; see above). This includes the 
minor Catholic epistles (2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude) and the 
Apocalypse in an anonymous sixth-centdry translation (these 
books are absent from the Peshitta translation). 

(b) Old Syriac 

The most convenient edition, with facing English translation, 
is by F.C.Burkilt, Evangelion da-Mepharreshe MI ( 1 904); this gives 
in die text the Curetonianus manuscript, and in the apparatus the 
variants to be found in the Sinaiticus. 

(c) Harklean 

The only complete edition of the NT is still that of J. White, 
with the misleading title Sacromm Evangeliorum...versio Syriaca 
Philoxeniana I-U (1778, 1799/1803). For recent editions of parts 
of the Harklean NT, see (d), below. 


I " 

Particular Topics 

(d) Comparative editions 

«*» of the Synac Goq^$j!££ GKi '^ Cbmp^ j 

f^^Z^lZT"* and Harll « « I 

"an s I aUons from Q »* "on Synac wme re ( and Synac I 


(a) Concordance^ 

^co r , lncexareavai]abJe/onhejo]jowj ^ b ^ I 

1984); Psa]ms; KSpnngTwiy p?" W - S, ^»"n„ 
Syrohexapla): W.Strotf.n.ann (1973) R, , 6SIaSteS (Pesh - ^ 
A complex concordance feffiS? *? Winter (1976). 
to Peshitta Institute, Leiden. ° T ' S in Potion by 

- Peshitta NT. G Ki ra7 a r 
<™*mce to the Syriac NTI-VI (f 9 S° ) mpi,ter - Generated Con- 

W dictionaries (NT) 

(]99I) -^,AKey 1 o lhe p eshiltaGospeJsI(a|aph[()da]a|h) 

°<C ira2 , L e XicalToo]slolheSyriacNewTes ^ i(| 


fc) Basic introductions 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

A. Voobus, in Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. Supple- 
ment (1976), 848-54; 1F 

B.M.Metzger, Early Versions of the NT (1977), ch.l; 

(m™2^ en ' Thc ° T Peshltta ' in MJ - Mulder ^' ^qra 

S.P.Brock, in Anchor Dictionary of the Bible, 6 ( 1 992), 794- 

", The Bible in the Syriac Tradition (SEERI Correspon- 
dence Course 1; 1989). 


Several different genres were used for commentaries: 

Commentaries on individual books: e.g. Ephrcm, John of 
Apamea, Daniel of Sal ah etc. 

Commentaries on entire Bible: Isho'dad, Anonymous, 
Dionysius barSalibi, Barhebraeus. 

Commentaries on Hexaemeron: Narsai (verse), Jacob of 
Serugh (verse), Jacob of Edessa, Moshe bar Kenha 
Emmanuel bar Shahhare (verse). 

Verse homilies on episodes: Narsai, Jacob of Serugh. 
Scholia: Jacob of Edessa, Theodore bar Koni. 
Questions and Answers: Isho'barnun. 
Theological: Philoxenus. 

Commentary on thc Lectionary: Gannat Bussame ('Gar- 
den of Delights'; E). 

The main translations of Greek exegetical works in Syriac 



Particular Topics 

transition which survive are as follows (given here in alphabetj 

Athanasius, On Psalms; 

Basil, On Hexaemeron; various homilies on particular' 

Cyril of Alexandria, Glaphyra (on Pentateuch); Homilies 

on Luke; 

Eusebius, Questions and Answers on Gospel; 

Gregory of Nyssa, Commentary on Song of Songs; 

John Chrysostom, Homilies on New Testament (only a] 
few fragments of those on books of the OT, and of some parts 
of the NT, survive); 

Theodoife of Mopsuestia; Commentaries on Genesis (frag- 1 
ments), Psalms (incomplete), Ecclesiastes, John; 

The following gives an approximate chronological table 
(and includes some works not mentioned in Ch.II; works by 
names in brackets do not survive). There is considerable inter- 
action between the E and W Syrian exegetical traditions, and 
through Tbn at Tayyib's Arabic commentaries the East Syrian 
exegetical tradition reaches the later Coptic and Ethiopian Or- 
thodox traditions. 

4th CENT. Ephrem 

5th CENT. Tr. from Greek WE 

Basil, Hexaemeron John of Apamea Narsai Theodore 
5th/6th CENT. Jacob of Serugh 

John Chrysostom Philoxenus 
Eusebius John bar Aphtonia 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

Athanasius Gregory of Nyssa 

Cyril of Alexandria 
6th CENT Daniel of Salah(Ahon) (Hnana) 
7th CENT Syrohexapla Jacob of Edessa (Gabriel ot Qatar) 
8th CENT.George of Be'elian Anon, Comm.Gen.-Ex.9 

Theodore bar Koni 
9th CENT. John of Dara Isho'barnun 

Moshe bar Kepha Isho'dad of Merv 

Anon, Comm.OT, NT 


Emmanuel bar Shahhai e 

1 1 th CENT. Ibn at Tayyib (Arabic) 
12th CENT DionysiusbarSalibi 

13th CENT. Barhebracus Gannat Bussame (Comm.on 

A good introductory guide to Syriac exegetical literature 
on the Old Testament is provided by L. van Rompay, in M.Saebo 
(ed) Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The History of its Interpre- 
tation U (Gouingen, 1996), 612-41 [a further instalment will 
appear in a later volume]; and in his 'La litterature exegetique 
Knaque et le rapprochement des traditions syrienne onentalc et 
y y nenneoccidentale',ParolederOrient20(l995) 22 1-35. ta 
the New Testament a survey is given by LC^cCulloug^ m 
Near East School of Theology, Theological Review 5 (1982), 



(1) Church of the East: three Anaphoras are in use, the 
principle one being that of Addai and Man (or 'the Apostles'); 


Particular Topics 

this is the oldest surviving Christian anaphora still in use TV 

a ss :; a T p h h e or r (b ?r babiy ^ EL <M 

attributed to Theodore of Mopsuestia and to Nestorius tL 

( 1 99 1 and n, Th< ; Euchanstic *** of Adda, and Man 
UyJl), and of the anaphora of Theodore by J Vadakkel Z 
East Synac Anaphora of Mar Theodore of Mops^ if W 
Several translations of the three anaphoras txtoTXl^ 
and G.Mooken (1967). ' egXAPaul 

(2) Syrian Orthodox (and MaroniteV nv-r-rn 
«*. W given ta A. Raes , tSe ST ■ J -T939) 5 
X.-X.V, a i so ,„ Ephemerides L 102 (1988) 44 45 ' 

CStST are ,0 r es from te a "° sioiic **« i- mid* 

ages, and ,n several cases .he attribution may vary in lhe j ™ 


SEW 1" ? und '" tte 2H££&£ 

inome, i y J9-), the volumes published contain: 

Lii n 94m r 39X Tim ° lhy rf Alexand ™> Scverus f Antioch 

III John fh rr Sl " n ' Cynl; tti (1951) Jacob of Senid, 
1 97^ Pi ! n 1 ' 1 (I953) JameS ^ Gre g°0' John- Eg 

Z r p f' PetCr m (= ShaiTar )' Th o^; HI i (198 

' Two current bilingual editions contain quite a large selec- 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

tion of anaphoras: 

AKonat(ed.; Pampakuda 1986), Syriac-Malayalam: 
James (short), Dionysius bar Salibi I, John Chrysostom [= John 
of Harran], John the Evangelist, Mattai the Shepherd, Eustathius 
I, Julius, Xystus, Peter II, XII Apostles II, Isaac, Abraham the 
Hunter, and one compiled from different anaphoras. 

Mar Athanasius Samuel (ed.; Lodi, NJ, 1991), Syriac- 
En-lish- James, Mark, Peter II, XII Apostles II, John the Evan- 
gelist Xystus, Julius, John Chrysostom [= John oi Harran in 
Raes' list], Cyril of Alexandria, Jacob of Serugh I, Philoxenus I, 
Severus, Dionysius bar Salibi I. 


(1) Church of the East. The present service goes back to 
Isho'yah III (d.659); a translation can be found in Paul and 
Mooken (see above, under anaphoras). 

(2) Syrian Orthodox. The present service is attributed to 
Severus of Antioch; it exists in two somewhat different forms, 
one associated with Antioch, the other with Tagrit. Two other 
baptismal services also survive but are no longer in use, one 
attributed to Timothy of Alexandria, the other anonymous; these 
have several links with the Maronite rite. 

There is a bilingual, Syriac-English, edition of the Antioch 
rite by A Y Samuel (1974). who also published bilingual edi- 
tions of the marriage and funeral services (1974); an English 
translation of the Tagrit rite (also in use in India) is to be lound in 
M Elenjikal. Baptism in the Malankara Church (1974). The 
other two old services are translated by S.P.Brock in Le Museon 
63 (1970), 367-431 [Timothy], and Parole de l'Orient 8 (1977/ 
8), 311-46 [anon.]. 


, .1 
I li 

Pedicular Top ics 

(3) Maronite The Qf>r„;„ • 
tod indeed there are i^^r'- 1 '^ '" lmb ° !S ^ 
graphic edition of the old 1 1 W " h his ™"'°&0. A „„o 

mM ^n^, : aSttTco^ ' Ua,i0 " da ° sre *l 

WMcIkite Thee,rf ' ,CUmi, » 

»** and fa attributed *£Tf* ^"^ "*'»<»«. ' 
"•^c feature, i s ak „ pj^. .^ sho « '™ with some vet, 
»» Orien,3(,972), 1,9-30° ^ (ei a "° " S.P.BrocI, Parol 

Weekday Office and Fend h 

Ar <')Church„ft heE ;^ n : ry(HU ^^») 

A-J.Maclean, East Syrian D,i, v Off '" "^^ ° f "« by 
of specific part., of the Huto l^T} ' 8H re " r - ' 9 «). ET 
£™d of A„„„„ ciauM **£» betound in tMbo J, ^ 

The Feasl "f the Nativity flSSsi" , h J ^"""""kuiangara 
™*t,o n , Life and Renewah (^ VPa[ '">o"»n g ara, Res-' 

(2) Syrian Orthodox ET „r 
.">** Griffiths, BookofCo ^° f^day office (Shehhuo, 
< 965): adapted ET by FrancTTh ^ ** Sj ™ n Cl ™« 
*•■ Spirit (,980). AlItET r , fC TayerWiIh,heH ^ 

P) Maronite ETnfc. ■, 
V) CANON UW JIII 0J82-5). 

East Syrian 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
texts are arranged in approximate chronological order, and the 
most important constituent parts are: 

- Pseudo- Apostolic canons (in two collections, of 27 and 
83 canons); 

- Canons of Ancyra, Neocaesarea, Nicaea, Gangra, 
Antioch, Laodicaea, Constantinople I, Carthage. Chalcedon; 

- Letter of Mamma and 73 canons [ET]; 

- Various synodal and other letters; 

- Synods of the Church of the East (often known as the 
'Synodicon Oiientale' [FT, ET forthcoming]); this consists of: 
Synod of Isaac (410): Synod of Yahballaha I (419/20); Synod 
of Dadisho 1 (423/4); Synod of Aqaq (485, 486); Synod of 
Baboi (497); Synod of Aba (543/4); Synod of Joseph (55*4); . 
Synod of Ezekiel (576); Synod oflsho'yab I (585/6); Synod of 
Sabrisho' (596); Synod of Gregory (605); Synod of Giwargis 
(George) (676). Some further documents are also included. 

- Various monastic rules [ET]; 

- Statutes of the School of Nisibis [ET]; 

- Legal decisions of Hnanisho' (773-780), Timothy I (780- 
823); Isho'barnun (823-28); 

- Legal compendia by Simeon of Revardashir (7th cent.), 
Isho'bokht (8th/9th cent.) and Abdisho' bar Bahriz (9th cent,); 

- Syro-Roman Law Book; 

- Various documents of Timothy I; 

- Various treatises on inheritance. 

Other East Syrian compendia include those of Gabriel of 
Basra (884/91), which does not survive complete; the 


Canon Law 

Nomocanon FLTl an i d 

compiled by * "' ecc,csi ^«c a l judgement rrrf 

'"toed .0 me four £££ ££? (Lib c ° r Pal "™ MB. I 
bm belo„ gillg pmbab|y , ^ C **<- S,n,e„„ bar Sabba , e _ 

EM Syria,, compendium of ca ,„ """"^ An ira P°«» 

by Ibn a,-Tayyib (d . 104 , 2d * Pr ° dUCed '" Ar * 
Christianiiy). L em,11< - d F "Jli au-Nasraniya (Lawof 

^b.^l^^^.a J 
MalabarClnach C&^,^£* *»«• ° f "* sj 

Nestonaner (Wien, | 98 |, I ' p ' dL \ Klrch "rech,s der I 
article oulhe canon law of theO,,,^ r ! ? ' S a ' ine su ™=y 
'nDicuo„„aireded vitc L on °;r '' heEl,lb) ' JDam 'fc ' 

w est Syrian 

SeveraJ Jarge collections ofcannn i 
what varying content. One of IT $mVlVC ' of some " 

P ^''- 8/11 of ,204) has been ou , " lanUSCri P ts (Damascus 
'The Synodicon • [ET1 " P ^ '" fuU Undcr ^ M 

-Apostolic canons; 

-Apomlic ordinances through Hippo,y lus . 1 

-Canons of John bar Qursos; 
-Canons of Rabbula; 

-Excerpts from Severns' Letters; 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

- Excerpts from Jacob of Edessa; 

- Canons of the patriarchs George, Quryaqos, Dionysius, 
John, and Ignatius; 

- Texts on various topics, e.g. unlawful marriage and in- 
heritance, derived from Muslim law; 

- Syro-Roman Law Book; 

- Many further excerpts from Severus and others; 

- Canons of die monastery of Mar Mattai; 

- Canons of John of Mardin for the monastery of Mar 
Hnanya (= modern Deir ez-Za'faran, outside Mardin). 

Other important collections are the fourth-century 
Didascalia Apostolorum [ET] (lost in Greek), which is incorpo- 
rated into some of the synodical collections; and the Acts of the 
Second Council of Ephesus (449) [GT, ET], preserved in asingle 
early manuscript. Barhebraeus' Nomocanon provides a collec- 
tion of canons arranged thematically. 

The best guides to the West Syrian texts arc A.Voobus, 
Syrische Kanonessammhmgen, IA.B. Wcstsyrische 
Originalurkunde (CSCO 307, 317; 1970), 

and W. Selb, Oricntalisches Kirchenrecht, 2, Die 
Geschichte des Kirchenrechts der Westsyrer (Wien, 1989). 


I - 


period" ^ C °" Ve " iem ,0 dM "^ b*wn severa! different 
(7J 5/y##/i century 

Prolo-rnonasnW (a s it „Z h .S * "' Wi " KSS l0 "* 

Dcmon s ,rad„„ s f,7 S , ?* °y Aphrahat, 
Ctataia, c„ mmmii y c I,t r ! £ ' ed '" C is ,ived wilili " "«= 

•he case in Egypl) , aml e ^f d Z™"™ "'"" " (aS w:,s 
undertaken (perhaps a, bap,i„„ ^ !, ' ,' '1° V0W * Wre 
«** Place in adulJhood) T™ ',e 1 ""!" dllys " onM »S 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
came to mean 'solitary', or just 'monk' (translating Greek 
monachos), in the fourth century the term had much wider 
connotations, notably 'single' (celibate), 'single-minded', and 
(above all) follower and imitater of Christ the Ihidaya (the term 
which translates Greek monogenes). The origins and semantic 
background of the other term, bnay qyama (singular bar/bath 
qyama), are disputed and the conventional translation 'sons (i.e. 
members) of the covenant' is not certain. It would appear that 
the terms ihidaye and bnay qyama both refer to individuals who 
live a consecrated life; within this group the bthule/bthulatha, 
'virgins' (male and female) are the unmarried, while the qaddishe 
(literally 'holy') are the married couples who have renounced 
sexual intercourse (the term derives from Exodus 19, verses 10, 
15). An important text from the end of this period is the Book 
of Steps (Liber Graduum). 

(2) Sth/6th century 

In this period the indigenous Syrian protomonastic 
tradition became absorbed into the mainstream monastic tradition 
that originated in Egypt in two different forms, the cenobilic 
tradition of Pachomius, and the eremitical tradition of Antony. 
In the course of these two centuries Egyptian monastic tradition 
gained more and more prestige, and all the main texts concerning 
early Egyptian monaslicism were translated from Greek into 
Syriac (notably Athanasius' Life of Antony, Palladius' Lausiac 
History, the Historia Monachorum, and various collections of 
Apophthegmata, or Sayings of die Desert Fathers). In due course 
memory of the Syriac protomonastic tradition faded away and 
was forgotten; as a result of this new origins for Syrian 
monaslicism were sought out, and the foundation of Syrian and 
Mesopotamian monasticism came to be accredited to the Egyptian 
Mar Awgen (Eugenius) and his disciples. Also translated into 


Monastic Lit. & Spirituality 

Basil's ascetic ^taSi^*' MaC " rian "<"* 
Stated t „ Dion^uf, U e Arcor ', ^ m ° nil ' S ' ,he «»■ 

^™llT^ m s ?™T m ol lhis period - **» I 

versing as a fi ^ ' « " '">«n .0 be publishedi Jo JJ 

and for tire influence S„ tt T/d !' b0,h '" Ws °™ «W 
0« h 'he originator of "ha t" " don * el ""Syri« lndi S B1 

P»^ of the spiritual tifiT, . C ' hc s,andard "'tee-fold 
of thespirit). ' '" e ' ,h " tages ° r ""= "»dy, of the soul and 

» •£££ tnnX he ba 7 S S u i P r n ' relc ™' wrtiers 
"adition, and Babai tire Grea> tirih P '" ^ WesI S *™ 
had witnessed a nronas ic rev " TJ?' *' ^ 6,h <*«** 
'» «he Church of the Em) ' ""' l>y Abrah am of Kashkar, 

(3) 7th/8th century 

ao'hors writing on various Crl r ^ mmb " ""»»« 
Sahdona/Martyriu, Isne nf m °[* e Spiri!ual lifc . """ably 
«" Elder, or Sahara wit' «" of ^atita (Joh 
«■■* 'Ananrsho' colS £?". ^^ '» 'he » 
emitied The Paradise of ti, e fS^" "»° » ^gle volume, 
*»<* commentaries on vaSme ' n S ' C EOTtian m °™fc 
Provided (notably by Dadisho on AhhT™* KX " were *» 
» vanous Apoplnlgmlt .'^ ^^".and 



Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
homilies forming the 'First Part' of Isaac's works (along with a 
short form of Philoxenus' Letter to Patricius and four homilies 
by John of Daly atha) were translated into Greek at monastery of 
Mar Saba, while works by a number of different East Syriac 
monastic authors of this period were read and copied in Syriac 
by Chalcedonian Orthodox monks (and survive in the Library ol 
St Catherine's Monastery, Sinai). 

West Syriac monastic authors of this period appear to 
have concentrated their energies in different directions: instead 
of writing on monastic topics they engaged in translating and 
commenting on texts of Greek provenance (biblical, ecclesiastical 
and secular). Most famous of these scholar-monks is Jacob of 
Edessa (d.708). (It should be remembered that over the centuries 
it has normally been monastic copyists who have transmitted to 
us the Syriac texts that survive to this day). 

(4) 9th century 

Two important monastic histories, by Isho'dnah and 
Thomas of Marga, belong to this century. 

(5) 12th/l3th century 

This was a period of revived literary activity in Syriac, and 
a notable feature is the use of Muslim religious works by some 
Syriac writers: thus, for example, Barhebraeus in his Ethieon 
makes considerable use of an influential work by al-Ghazzali. 

Many relevant texts of this, and later periods, remain 
unpublished, let alone studied. 

The following are the main relevant authors/works, in 
chronological order (numbers in brackets refer to Section III): 




Monastic Lit » c 

Aphrahat ' D ^on St ra ( ion s6 -7 
L ^erGradua m / Bookors 

^thcenturies * C ** 

C«) Syrfac writers 

;^orA Pamea(JoJ]ntheSoji 

J acoboi-Serugh(=20) » ■ 
Jetter , ^co Urses , LeltCl , p alnciuSiandofc 

Esaacof Antioch(=23) v-„- 

S ^phe„ba I -Sudha I J 1 - (=:?6)Rnl . 

Eva gm.Mim,ero llS work s 
Macarian Homilies 

Al ^»^i lis , Ll/eorAntony 


Hl ^onaMonachon, m | 

A '»™°nas, Letters ^"Fathers 

Abba Isaiah, Asceticon 

Mark (he Monk v, ■ 

° nk ' Vano »s works 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
: the Way of Life*. 

6th/7lh centuries 

(a) Syriac writers 

Abraham of Nathpar (= 38). 

Shubhalmaran (= 42) 

Babai (=43), Commentary on Evagrius' Centuries; (lost 
'Book of Perfection') 

Martyrius/Sahdona (= 44), Book of Perfection. 

Gregory of Cyprus (= 48). 

'Ananisho', compiler of Book of the Paradise (of Egyptian ( 

Isaac of Nineveh (= 55). 

Shem'on d-Taybutheh (= 56). 

Dadisho" (=57). 

(b) translations from Greek 

'Dionysius the Areopagite' (second translation, by Phokas, 
late 7lh cent.) 

John Climacus, The Spiritual Ladder. 
8th century 

John of Dalyatha (John the Elder/Saba) (= 66). 

Joseph Hazzaya (=67). 
9th century 

Monastic histories by Thomas of Marga (= 79) and 
Isho'dnah (= 80). 
13th century 


Monastic Lit. & Spirituality 

(Many monastic writings from the 7,1, 
remain unpublished), century on want 

E«erp ls in Inundation can be found i„; 
Life irtZZ^™ *""" "" »*y« -d the Spin, ua | 
y ^^Mineana, Early Christian My s ,i cs (Woodbroolce St„dieJ 
^fclto-ing^b provide a g e„era, orientation- | 

•^%Haci:;;;;;: , ;^™^ r -"c 1 ,r iS tia,, S p„,,, ll ,, 
* 1. ^c„r*: n r": ,,s f,m,,c - ,mmd »^ ■ >■«* 

1987). yro " onentale (Chcvetogne 

GBIum, Mysticism in the Svri .„. T .. 
Correspondence Course 7, 1990) """ (SEEW 

Ongtoa ,„ Twelfth Cnjy a^^^, 8 * 1 *" 1 * 

apintaahty (London 1986), 199-215. 

- Spirituality in the W;.,.. t j- ■ 
Etho series 2, 1989) Y Tradltl0n ( SEE ^> Moran 

*.-s P rs 



Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

P.Yousif, 'An introduction to the East Syrian Spirituality', 
in A. Thottakara (ed.), East Syrian Spirituality (Bangalore 
1990), 1-97. 

For the early period (especially 4th cent.) and the distinctive 
Syriac 'proto-monastic' tradition the following are helpful: 

S. Abouzayd, Ihidayutha: a study of the life of singleness 
in the Syrian Orient (Oxford 1993). 

E.Beck, 'Asceticisme et monachismc chez s.Ephrem', 
L'Orient Syrien 3 (1958), 273-98. 

S.P.Brock, 'Early Syrian asceticism', Numen 20 (1973), 
1-19, reprinted in Syriac Perspectives on Late Antiquity 

(London 1984). 

" : v The ascetic ideal: StEphremandproto-monasticism', 
in his The Luminous Eye (Rome 1985/Kalamazoo 1992), ch. 8. 

S.Griffiih, 'Singles in God's service...', The Harp 4 (1991), 

" , "Monks, "Singles" and the "Sons of the Covenant"...', 
. in Eulogema: Studies in honor of R.Taft (Studia Anselmiana 
110,1994), 141-60. 

" , "Asceticism in the Church of Syria. The hermeneutics 
of early Syrian monasticism' , in V.L.Wimbush and R.Valantasis 
(eds), Asceticism (1995), 220-48). 

A.Guillaumont, Aux origines do monachisme Chretien 
(Abbayede Bellefontaine 1979). 

T.Koonammakkal, 'Early Christian monastic origins. A 
general introduction in the context of Syriac Orient', The 
Christian Orient 13 (1992), 139-62. 

R.Murray, 'The exhortation to candidates for ascetical vows 




A™e„i a ,„ lhe Fomia( .. v «£*« ■ f By 2amum , Syria i 

JwKngcta^.tt in , ii. 1 rh Ve " amerS ° f lhe e " rl V Syria! 
215, 419-44. ' , ' lCtasllani 'Periodica39()973),l 9 |. ' 

■«>me surviving monastic '"" ° e . S P" ""'"'<c A colfcclio, of 

^Arabic Docu m c„ ls ;S™ L t'T dinAVo *^^ 
Ageism (Stockholm ,<f« ^'"^^''''""""^a.ivco Syria, 


Historical writin« in q 
f°™s. For World Historv tlw ,aken °" Seva °> MerMt 
Church History , he Zl^T"'" 1 "*" C ™™> «* » 
C- M r= a , whose ChrontoL and 0™!."^ by Euseb ™ 
;ansla,edi n ,oSyriac(d,o g neTure^ ' ,rCh Hist ^ «« htt 
^ e ^i«tSyriao writer tooornf„f» VeS '" com P lcte ftrm) 

Ecclesiastic., History llK e X°^ v "Smenrs survive; f „ 
% ten, (= 34: late 6th cent) E "L u Wr " C ' ^ J ° h " of 
** .he form ofloeu, histories ft«a r H "^ '" S ^™c 
work usually known Way as i- , !/ ' f '° Sur ™<= «n g th 
">***l b the early sixth cemury '" *" ^ <= W. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Many Syriac chronicles and other historical works no longer 
survive, or are only partially known through their re-use by later 
writers. A particularly important chronicle which is now lost is 
I that of the Syrian Orthodox patriarch Dionysius of Tel m ah re 
(d.845), covering AD 582-842; considerable use of it, however, 
was made by both Michael the Great (= 89) and the anonymous 
author of the chronicle to the year 1234 (= 93), so that a certain 
amount of it can be approximately reconstructed. 

The seventh century, in particular, produced a number of 
apocalyptic texts, where descriptions of contemporary events are 
provided with an apocalyptic outcome; notable examples are 
the poem on Alexander the Great (= 49), from the late 620s, and 
the Apocalypse of Ps.Methodius (= 59), of c. 691/2. 

- Surviving World Histories (covering from Creation to 
the time of the author): 

Ps.Dionysius of Telmahre/Zuqnin Chronicle (= 69). 

Michael the Great {= 89). 

Anonymous (= 93), Chronicle up to the year 1234. 

Barhebraeus (= 95), Chronicon. 

- Ecclesiastical Histories: 
John of Ephesus (=34). 
Ps.Zacharias Rhetor (= 36). 
Barhadbeshabba 'Arbaya (= 40). 
Barhebraeus (= 95), Ecclesiastical History. 
-Local histories: 

, 'Joshua the Stylite' (= 25). 
Chronicle of Edessa (= 33). 


1 \ 



but accSgts^SS lta V lS1Xth - n ^-I 
himself; at nrese h! ° W ° rk of Min £ a ™ 

• M present the matter remains unresolved] 

Khuaastan Chronicle (=53) 

m Synac Persneciivp.; „„ r , a . u ^ '")• ' 7 " 3 6, reprinted 
raspecoves on Late Antiquity (1984), ch 7 

297-326, repri d" i^ZnllT ^'^ ' " 919 ^ 
L Conrad ■<: Omsuanity (1992), chd! 

=*). NU a,-S„am during £ Abb.,H £■*"! RSChick 
htemauonal Conference (Amman , »T) I 44 $ 

am»nfcteat 3 T , C s iT th f Cen,Ury '" "* Wes " S ?™ 

Historian, of a/Sg^ "^ M RMJ, °" ^ ^ 

f Te I S r :^l™f^ Chr ° niC,e0fPSeUd0 - D ^»» 
(Uppsala.987) " heH ' Sl0,y of Historiography 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

This can conveniently be divided into (1) popular, and 
(2) learned. 

(1) Popular literature. 

Much of this literature is international in character, and 
can be found translated into many different languages. Notable 
"examples are: 

- The Story of Ahikar (= III. 1 0). Originating probably in 
the sixth or fifth century BC, this Aramaic story was translated 
into Greek in the Hellenistic period; though this Greek version 
does not survive, it provided the source for a section, based on 
Ahikar, in the extant Greek Life of Aesop; it also served as the 
basis for the later translations of the Story of Ahikar into Slavonic. 
The Syriac form of the story survives in several slightly different 
forms, and it was from Syriac that the other oriental versions 
ultimately arrive (Arabic, Armenian, Old Turkish, Modern Syriac 

- Aesop's Fables. The Fables of Aesop are much older 
than the Life of Aesop, and they are transmitted in a number of 
different forms. A collection of them came to be translated into 
Syriac (ed. + FT, B.Lefevre, 1941), and there the name Aisopos 
came to be corrupted into losipos (i.e. Josephus!). The Syriac 
in turn served as the basis for a translation into Arabic (where 
Aesop now takes on the name Loqman), and back (!) into Greek 
(atMelitene, end of the 1 1th century) where the work is attributed 
to 'Syntipas' - since it was translated at the same time as the 
story of Sindbad (= Greek Syntipas), another popular work, 
perhaps of Middle Persian origin. 

- Kalilah and Dimnah, This collection of delightful Indian 
animal stories (which are preserved in the Pancatantra) was 


Secular Literature 

translated into Middle Persian n , rt - 

tee (by a certain BudhHnoSvH l" ^ S ' Xth CentUr ^ d 
J *a earte extam Wlt n s " theTn " S fimSy,iac *»**" 
^t Asia. The Midd^^^™ m " le ^ddte &tf 
» *° 9th century by 1^Z^"^**™W ! 
ver S10n a second Syriac trmshZ ' d ' rom this A * < 

Nations, inl0 p^ f^™ pother**** 
was thr 0llgh these transitions t.rT' ^ "^ and » ! 
E-ope in the ,6th and imZl , T" **** Wes[e " 
•Wpay'X where it was to enL ^ ( ^ lhe name 'Mptf or 
of the two Syrrac ^^^^ <***££ 

^aginationandsogotn-ansJatedfW^ m- 8i " ^ P ° pu! * r 
languages, both oriental and v^eT ^ ^ ""V**** 
ET,E.A.W.Budg e , I889)sur^k .' The Synac Ve ™on {ed. + 
**» Greek, but come by v y f "f y TJ ^ ^'^ **» 
f -ork gave rise to a iZlrlft ^ *«*" Ve ™= 
theme of Alexander, notab 7 a ,/ Jl f*™? W ° rks devoted to the 
seventh century (, „ 49) ^1^°^° poem «f the early 
Jacob of Serugh. ^ Whldllsofte n wrongly attributed to | 

(2) Learned literature 

PMosophy, JJ C i. 88 ;™^- Katies, medicine, 
works ,„ ,„ ese area , ha "^ ° l» remembered that many 

f Cific ^ '° n«um. seience, am mre r'l^r* deTOt£d 
Treasures, ffl.73, is exceptional in , "' (J ° b °{ ^W'' Book of 

P« tee topics (and geZXT^fT?' and '° r lhe ™» 

commentaries on , he | jx £ n, r ' "'* in thec °™ of 

»DayoCrea U cn(He«emero„,: thus 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
the Hexaemeron commentaries by Jacob of Edessa and Moshe 
barKepha, in particular, contain a great deal of material relevant 
•to these subjects. On astronomy works by Sergius of Resh 'aina, 
Severus Sebokhi and (above all) Barhebraeus survive. In the 
Abbasid period (especially 8th/9th century) Gundishapor (Beth 
Lapat) was famous for its Syriac medical school, and many 
medical works in Syriac were produced at this period, although 
only very few of these survive. One particularly influential work 
was Hunayn ibn Ishaq's Medical Questions: this work, which is 
extant in both Syriac and Arabic, was translated into Latin, where 
it was known as the Eisagoge (Introduction) of Ioannitius, and 
has been described as 'one of the most widely diffused early 
translations of Arabic medicine' in western Europe. 

The first Syriac author to pay serious attention to Greek 
philosophy was Sergius of Resh 'aina (111.27), who provided 
Syriac readers wi ill introductions to the earlier of Aristotle's logical 
works (the Organon), which formed the basis of all higher 
education in Late Antiquity. Many subsequent writers dealt 
with similar topics, and several provided commentaries, eidier to 
specific books within the Organon (thus Probus, who perhaps 
belongs to the 6th century), or to the entire Organon (thus 
Dionysius bar Salibi and Barhebraeus). Others, like Severus 
Sebokht, Athanasius of Balad and Jacob of Edessa in the seventh 
century, provided introductory materials for the benefit of Syriac 
readers embarking on philosophical studies. The 1 2th and 1 3th 
centuries witnessed a great deal of activity of an encyclopaedic 
nature, covering all areas of human knowledge; many of the 
relevant texts still await proper publication and study: remarkably, 
this even applies to Barhebraeus' largest and most important 
encyclopedic work on philosophy, the Cream of Sciences. (For 
translations from Greek, see below). 


Secular Literature 

In the field of rhetoric ,t 
^^^obbarShakko^Bleh? "^ are by Anto l 

Tkanslahon, yasthesKtf, century. 

P 1 ** in three main pha es ^ !m ^ W °' kS ' ™»** 
SOmcl ™« faWy intet/retattVe ,1 i ' ""'"^ ln " a "** " 
"Wnom, or new trarlti ^ L^** ' <2) sev <™ | H»W 
ongma! Greek very accura ,™ S ' ~ "f a '7"8 U> reduce £ 
< and "Svisions), usualIy serv * " d , 3) "'""-century „- ansIa ,^ 
'-to Arabic. ^""^'"INilone to transit 

One of the earliest Suri^ • 

™* was Ser g i us of R ^ ^^"f na ke th, sort of 

D' Corpus int0 SyriTc lo ,' ^ tran ^i"g the 

Pseudo-Aristotelian treaJe 0n * S ° ^'^ an influential 

of Aphrodisias- 'Causes of the J i!"'^' and Zander 

«^"^lJ, t oo et h erW]tJlacon .* ^ -erse' (Iosl in the Q 

**». anonymous trTnSf n7 ber ° fwork ^y Galea 
Pfclosophica] literature of a e ^ m ° re P ° puJar G ™\ 
^ertaken in this earlier period Z ^T ^ prob ^ 

™ y , u ,cC p Jm ; r, n ude transiations « 

P^do-Platonic dialogue on he so / ^'^ aS WeJ1 as » 
J °st), various say i n „ s of Gnt \ ? ( h ° Se Greek original is 
Korean ^££$*^« ***** them, £ 

works (which formed the ^ST^^^^ 

A "^uity and the Middle A !es), ,gh r ^^ In ^ 

deduction (Eisagoge) ^ ^ther with Porphyry's 

^omeurnes been attributed to se"!-?; transl ^ns have 

trgIUi ' butior »ot good reason) 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
During the second period a number of revised (and more 
literal) translations were made of books of the Organon; many 
of the scholars engaged in this work seem to have had connections 
with the monastery of Qenneshrc (on the Euphrates); prominent 
among them was the Syrian Orthodox patriarch Athanasius II 
(d.687) and George, bishop of the Arab Tribes (d.724). 

The third period (late eighth and especially, ninth century) 
witnessed a great flurry of translation activity from Greek into 
both Syriac and Arabic, thanks to the general patronage of a 
number of the Abbasid caliphs and the growing interest of Arab 
scholars in the heritage of Greek philosophy and science. Many 
of the earlier translators belonged to one or other of the Syriac 
Churches, and frequently they found it more convenient to 
translate first from Greek into Syriac (for which there was the 
advantage of several centuries of translation experience), and 
then from Syriac into Arabic (for which there was no prior 
experience). The most famous of these translators was Hunayn 
ibn Ishaq (d.c.873), whose translation work covered biblical, 
medical and philosophical texts (he was also an author in his 
own right). 

Since Arabic tended to replace Syriac as a vehicle for 
learned secular literature in the Middle Ages, many Syriac 
translations ceased to be copied (this seems to apply especially 
to those made in the third period); thus it is known from 
quotations in Syriac authors such as Moshe bar Kepha, John of 
Dara, Dionysius bar Salibi, Jacob bar Shakko, Barhebraeus and 
others, that many Greek scientific, medical and philosophical 
works must once have existed in Syriac translation, even though 
no manuscripts of these survive - or where they do, they are in a 
very fragmentary state (this applies, for example, to the Syriac 
versions of Euclid and of Theophraslus' Meteorology). 


Secular Literature 

be <b^£KE? and SMJdeS W Pm '""« ^4 

(London 1984). n Latc Antiquity 

SynacChrisIi a „i, y(A | dersh01]99 ' ) U c |; 2) ' M4 ' = S —« » 
^^■ T Ar^3Tm)tm a 62. * HUnay "' S tra " SMM 
Ari SlM e lia „ Ugica , Tcx ( , s (i™,^-*.. on 

"^SftfT" - ' Medi2in - ; 

" , "Galen i m syrischen', in VNunnn r-.n r. ■ 
Problems and P roS pec,s (London 1 98 1,13 1 -66 * 

^Dt Lacy o'Lcary, How Greek Science passed [0 the Arabs 

-W^fTSS;^ "*— » of Ore* ■': 
Syrern 3 '^ S> , ■ Pl ^'° Sphie Und Wi ™nscl,aAe„ bei den 

asiatique 277 (1989), 1-17 a ' Joilrn aJ 

, L'intennediaire svriaaue rlsne u *™ ■ • 

^"'iqut aans Ju transmission dc la 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

philosophic grecque a l'arabc: le cas de l'Organon 
d'Aristote', Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 1 (1991), 187-209. 

" , "Note sur Sergius de Reslfaina, traducteur du grec en 
syriaqueetcommentateur d'Aristote', in G.Endress and 
R.Kruk (eds), The Ancient Tradition in Christian and 
Islamic Hellenism (Leiden 1997), 121-43. 

G.Panicker, 'The Book of Treasures' [by Job of Edessa], 
: The Harp 8/9 (1995/6), 151-9. 

F.E.Peters, 'The Greek and Syriac background', in 
S.Hossein Nasr and Q.Leaman (eds), History of Islamic 
Philosophy (London 1996), 40-5 1. 

: G.Strohmaier, 'Hunayn ibn Ishaq - an Arab scholar 
translating into Syriac', Aram 3 (1991), 163-70. 

G.Troupeau, 'Le role des syriaques dans la transmission 
etrexploitationdupairimoincphilosophique el scientifique 
grec', Arabics 38 (1991), 1-10. 

J. Watt, 'Grammar, rhetoric and the Enkyklios Paideia in 
Syriac', Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenlandischen Gesellschal't 

143(1993), 45-71. 

" , "The Syriac reception of Platonic and Aristotelian 
rhetoric', Aram 5 (1993), 579-601. 

M.Zonta, Fonti greche e orientali dell'Economia di Bar- 
Hebraeus nell' opera La Cremadella Scienza', (Naples 1992). 


2nd cent.(?) 
3rd ceni.(?) 
before 411 



Avastnumber of translations, mainly from Greek were,™* 

*» Synac, above all during ,„e 5th-9th centuries. Tte3 

■ «*.«. are often quite free (and are sometimes much p^T 

n ■„ t e 6lh imd espeda|]y , ]ie 7ih cm * W 

«yle of ..anslanon came into favour, and many older translat! 
were,l,e„ revised (orsometimes, completely new one 12 

^z:ft ans]ati r camc,n,i,eh, " i8hth ^-- 

Z™, , 1 " ,Me ' CSt M U,at " me in ■™*'ting Oreok ; 

CXE> ' mific li,era,are imo Arabic «•<- ^ 

(from Gre;! ! 1 ? 1118 !" *" "^ SUrVi ving translations -to Synac 
(from Greek unless otherwise stated; * denotes that the Greek orJ 
nal is wholly or mostly lost). ^ 

PeshittaOT (from Hebrew) 
Diatessaron (lost, apart from quotations) 
Old Synac Gospels [ET] 

Much of OT 'apocrypha' 

Clementine Recognitions 

Titus of Bostra, Against the 


*Eusebius, Theophania 

♦Bosebins, Palestinian Martyrs [ETJ 

Eusebius, Church History 

Josephus, Wars Book VI 


4th/5th cent. 

5th cent. 


5th/6th cent. 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

*Didascalia [ET] 
Basil, On the Holy Spirit, On the 
Hexaemeron [ET], various Homilies 
*Theodore of Mopsuestia, Commentary 

on John [LT] 

*Theodore of Mopsuestia, Catechetical 

Homilies [ET] 
*Syro-Roman Law Book 
*Aristeides, Apology [ET] 
*Evagrius, various works 
*Epiphanius, On Weights and Measures 


John Chrysostom, Commentaries and 

various other works 

Gregory of Nyssa. Comm. on Song of 

Songs, various other works 

Gregory of Nazianzus, Homilies (1st 


Athanasius, Life of Antony [ET], various 

other works [ET] 

Cyril of Alexandria, various works 
Macarius, Homilies [GT] 
Ignatius of Antioch, Letters [ET] 
Nilus, monastic writings [IT] 
Palladium Lausiac History [ET] 
HistoriaMonachorum [ET] 
Apophthegmata (Sayings of the Desert 

Fathers) [ET] 
Ammonius, Letters [ET] 
Abba Isaiah, Asceticon [FT] 


j ■ 

6th cent. 


7th cent. 

: ^:-L e tr 01 ib r an(GT] 

*w„ , • 0i Sev erus fFTJ 

Mark the Monk 

Athana Sl u S> F estalLeUcr J T 

122 L J 

late 8th/9th inn. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

♦Severus, Homilies (revised translation by 

Jacob of Edessa) [FT] 

*Severus, Select Letters (tr. by Athanasius 

of Balad) [ET] 

Porphyry, Eisagoge (2nd translation, by 

Athanasius of Balad) 

Dionysius the Areopagite (2nd 
translation, by Phokas of Edessa) 
John Klimakos, The Ladder. 
(This was a period of great translation 
activity from Greek into Arabic, especially 
of philosophical, medical and scientific 
works; although the names of many of 
the translators are known, the 
intermediary Syriac translations of this 
period are for the most part lost). 
Kalilah and Dimnah (from Arabic) [ET| 
Sindbad (from Arabic) [ET] 



The following provides a guide to translations available for 
the authors covered in Section in and translations into Syriac men- 
tioned in Section V; only where English translations are absent or 

inadequate is reference made to translations into other modern lan- 


Suicte to Engl. Tran sl ctl ons I 

Bon VIII. ^u-] 990), lor whose titles see Seel 

BARDZT-Wctr;' t C0UNTR ' ES <*"*" 
H and W.WJJrij^*' C ' fe8IUm ^«™ d«3a* 

MODES of SOLOMON- »t,. m ,, i 
bctttt traction, by M.Entenoo j"^ sT" (,9,3 *J 

(7) MELITO, Apolosy * Wr 
Syriacum (1855), 41-51. w - Lllr eion, Spicilegium j 

«<W* good introduction,. '""^'^P 1 '" » 0985X59,. 
WMAR A.LettertoSeranion-.Wr 

|y™ct, m( , 855X70 . 76 H^Ts^*^ 

Synacum (1990), 257-72 S ymposiura 

("»)AHIKAR: *J.R Harris FCr , 
The Story of Ahikar (1913) FCCon ybeare, A.S.Lewis, ; 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
ihers 11.13 (1898). 11-13, 15-19, 21, part of 23 in 
J.Neusner, Aphrahat and Judaism (197 1). 2 and 7 in Journal of 
the Society for Oriental Research 14 (1930) and 1 6 (1932). 4 
in S.P.Brock, The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual 
Life (1987), 5-25. Complete French translation by M- 
J.Pierre in Sources Chretiennes 349 and 359; complete German 
translation by P.Bruns (1991-2). 

(12) EPHREM. The following are the main English trans- 
lations available (in chronological order): 

- J.B.Morris, Select Works of St Ephrem the Syrian ( 1 847). 
Includes the only complete English translation of Hymns on Faith. 

- H.Burgess, Select Metrical Hymns and Homilies oi 
Ephrem Syrus (1853); The Repentanceof Nineveh (1853)." 

- J.Gwynn (ed.), A Select Library of Nicene and Post 
Nicene Fathers 11.13 (1898). Includes Nisibene Hymns 1-21, 
35-42, 62-68; Hymns on Epiphany 

- *C. W.Mitchell , Prose Refutations I-II (1912,1921). 

- S.P.Brock, The Harp of the Spirit. Poems of St Ephrem 
(1975; selection of 12 poems; 2nd edn 1983; 18 poems). 

- J.Lieu, in S.N.C.Lieu, The Emperor Julian (1986, 2nd 
edn 1989). Hymns on Julian. 

- K.McVey, Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns (1989). Includes 
Hymns on Nativity, onVirginity, and on Julian. 

S.P.Brock, St Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Paradise 





3Uide to Enol, Translations 


rem, Commentary on the Diates, 


- E.G.Mathews and J.PArmr <;, c u 

Selected Prose Works. Includes Com P ** Syma 

on Exodus, HomiJy on ou rL T'^ °" GenCsisand 

-A.G.Salvesen Ephren r ' ^ t0PubIi ^ 
en, Ephrem, Commentary on Exodus (1995). 

For further details, consult S PBrock- ' a k ■ , 
*e main editions and transit * f ' Ab nelguid et0 
Ephrem', The Harp 3 [ZTZ & ^ ° f ^ 

(13)BOOKofSTPP<;- n 
-P-paranon (Cstercian L^7 ^^^ «^ 
^Murray, Symbols of Church n!^^ aZ ° 0) - Chl2: f 
cJl - 12 and 18: fa S Bro i Th S r^™ ° 975) ' 26 +* 

45-59. * ' The Synac Fath ^ on Prayer (1987), 

(14) CYRILLONA: FT bv n r 
L'Agneau veritable (1 984). DCe ^eJaud, CyriUonas, 

-Dialogue on Soul FTbvI H f 06)JOHN ^SOLITARY: 

- Three Letters, GT bv *r r v « « 

' ' °y L( J.Rignell (194J) 

v ources chretiennes 3 1 1 , i 984) 

Isaac the Syrian (1 984), 46 1 ^ UMfflcrJ ' ^^ Homilies of St 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

- Letter to Hesychius, S. PBrock, The Syriac Fathers on 
Prayer (1987), 81-98. 

- On Prayer, *S. PBrock in Journal of Theological Stud- 
ies 30 (1979), 84- 1 01 ; ET repr. in Ascetic Homilies of St 
;lsaac the Syrian (1984), 466-8. 

(17) ANONYMOUS POETRY: - On Abraham and Sarah 
in Egypt, *S.P.Brock, LeMuseon 105(1992), 104-32. 

- On Sacrifice of Isaac, *S. PBrock, Le Museon 99 
(1986), 108-12, 122-5. 

- On Joseph, nos 3-4, A.S.Rodrigues Pereira, Jaarbericht 
ExOriente Lux 31 (1989/90), 95-120. 

■, mT 

- On Elijah, * S. P. B rock, Le Museon 89 (102), 106-10. 

- Memra on Mary and Joseph, S. PBrock, Bride of Light 
(1994), 146-60. 

- Soghitho on Abel and Cain, *F.Feldmann, Syrische 
Wechsellieder(1896); on Mary and Angel, Mary and 
Magi, S.P.Brock, Bride of Light (1994), 111-32; John the 
Baptist and Christ, Cherub and Thief, S.P Brock, Syriac Dia- 
logue Hymns (1987); Dispute of Months, *S.PBrock, Jour- 
nal of Semitic Studies 30(1985), 193-6. 

(18) ANONYMOUS PROSE: - (Abraham of Qidun and) 
Mary, S.P.Brock and S.A.Harvey, Holy Women of the Syr- 
ian Orient (1 987), 29-36. 

- Man of God, FT by A.Amiaud (1889); ET (of FT) 



Guide to Engl. Translations 

- Shmona, Gurya and Habbib *FC RmWt, h 
and the Goth (1913) ^-Burkm, Euphemia 

^.Martyrdoms of Sharbel and Bar S arT 

W.Cureton, Ancient Syriac Documents (1864), 41-72 . 

- Euphemia and the Goth *FCRnriri« c u ■ 
the Goth (1913). ^.Burkitt, Euphemia and 

- Martyrdom of Martha etc Rrnrt a «i o 
Women, 67-81. and Harve * Hol y : 

82 . 99 ." Mimyrd ° m ° f *»»". B «Kk and Harvey, Holy Wo m , 

- Symeon tffe Stylite, R.Doran (1992). 
Julian Romance, H.Goll 

ancz, Julian the Apostate (1928). 

- Life of Rabbula (in preparation by R.Doran). 

- On Abraham and Isaar *<; d tj i ^ ■ 
Lova„ ic „ siaPcriodjcaI2(19 ^; 1C ' 2 S 2 P.B,oc k , OnemaHj 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
t (19) NARSAI: - mem re on Creation, FT by *P.Gignoux, 
PO 34 (1968). 

- memre on liturgy, R.H.Connolly (1908); memra 17, 
G.Vavanikunncl, Homilies ...on Holy Qurbana (1977) 55-84; 

-memre on dominical feasts, *F.G.McLeod, PO 40 (1979); 

- memre on OT topics, *J.Frishman (diss. Leiden 1992). 

- memre on Gospel parables, *FT by E.P.Siman (1984). 

- memre on Three Doctors, FT by *F.Martin, Journal 
asiatique 15 (1900), 469-525. 

(20) JACOB of SERUGH: 

- memre on Virgin Mary, IT by C.Vona (1953); ET by 
M.Hansbury forthcoming; 

- memre against Jews, FT by *M. Albert, PO 38 (1976); 

- memre on dominical feasts, ET by T.Kollamparampil in 

- memre on Creation, FT by *Kh.Alwan, CSCO Syr 214- 
;. 5 (1989); 

- memra on the Veil of Moses, S.P.Brock, Sobomost/ECR 
§3(1981), 70-85; 

- memra on Simeon the Stylite, S.A.Harvey, in VL.Wimbush 
(ed.), Ascetic Behavior.. A Sourcebook (1990), 15-28; 

- memra on Ephrem, *J.Amar, PO 47 (1995); 

- prose homilies, FT by FRilliet, PO 43 (1986); ET by 
T.Kollamparampil in preparation; 

- memre on Thomas, GT by W.Strolhmann, GOFS 12 


GUide to E ^9'- Translations 

- memra on Melki/edek I Ti^i 
53-64. Qek ' JTIlok epara m pil, Harp 6 (1993), 

^eVi^tT^T re ^ f befo -^-la l cdinT i : 
«" bibliographies cited in SecJoT m*" * *' ^ 1 

(21) SIMEON the POTTPP c n 
"y-ns from the Early Church (198^^^ 

(22) PHILOXENUS: ' " I 
- Asceiical Discourses *F awd i 

PC) 15.3H-4I (,920. I*a h y-M-Bri.T, :1 rKl|.-.Gr»mn, 
|fl (i9< M«n re on F i„ ily . LT by . A . Vasd|a , dc csco sjf9 _ T 

l7 1 - 2 ^7 8 r nta ' 70nMa '' hCWi, ' U,L " k - ?l ^".C S COS yr J 
(»54uZT '" C Anni " Ki '" i ™. ^ by P.Kru g e,, OCP20 
onlC^ ,inSOmt,,ySpiri, ' SP - B ™"yr,a, F a, te 

ced Sit*" "" Phi ' 0M " IS '" «" "iWinsn.phfa 


- Memra on Constantinople *r km 
Semitistik? (1929), 298-306 ' Zcitschr '^ for \ 


Brief outline of Syr, Lit. 

- Against the Jews, *S.Kazan, OC 46 (1962), 87-98; 

- On incarnation, FT by P.Feghali, PdO 10 (1981/2), 79- 
[102; 11 (1983), 20 1-22: 

-LTol'37 texts (including some madrashe) by *G.BickelJ (1873). 

(24) SYMMACHUS: *S.P.Brock,LcMuseon87 (1974), 

(25) 'JOSHUA the STYUTE': *W. Wright (1882); new 
ET in preparation by J. Watt. 

(26) STEPHEN BAR SUDHAILI: *ES.Marsh, The Book 
of the Holy Hierotheos (1927). 

(27) SERGIUS of RESHAINA: FT by *P.Sherwood, 
L'OrienlSyrien 5 (1960), 433-57: 6 (196 0,95- 1 15, 121-56. 



- 1st Letter on Najran Martyrs, AJeffrey, Anglican 
Theological Review 27 (1945), 195-205; 

- 2nd Letter on Najran Martyrs, *I.Shahid, The Martyrs 
of Najran (1971), 43-64; 

- Book of the Himyarites, * A.Moberg (1924). 
(29)ELIAS: LT by *E. W.Brooks, CSCO Syr 7-8 (1907). 
(30) CYRUS of EDESSA: *W.Macombcr, CSCO Syr 

155-6 (1974). 

(33) CHRONICLE of EDESSA: B.W.Cowper, Journal 
of Sacred Literature 5 ( 1 865), 28-45 ; GT by *L.Hallier ( 1 892); 
LTby *I Guidi, CSCO Syr 1-2 (1903). 

(34) JOHN of EPHESUS: 

- Lives of Eastern Saints, *E.W.Brooks, PO 17-19 (1923-5); 

- Ecclesiastical History, Part III, R.Paync Smith (1860); 


©wide to Eng) Translations 
LTby. E .W.Brook,CSCO Syr ,05-6 (1935-6) 

- Memra on Crucifixion *p vcr j 

J«- al „f T, eo , ogit , a , S1 ;™' 2 « ^jed ,u,d L. R . Wickhara , 

- Letter, *R YFhirH a . n 

CalJinicum: Anti-Trithe f' n * LWickhara . P^er of 

mineisi Dossier (J 98 1), 103.4 

(36) PS.ZACHARIAS- Fin -i 

(1899); LTofwhoIeby *EWo ^ ^ ^^ 

(1919-24). E - W.Brooks, CSCO 38-9,41-2 


- Life: .see 39, below; 

- FT by *F.tfau,PO 3 (1905), 101-15; i 

- On man as microcosm, LT bv *J R rh.i , m • 
extents des manuscrits de a r;m ■ i CJlabot ' NotICM <* 
(1965), 70-72. B'bliotheque Nalionale 43 


- Cave of Treasures. E.AW.Budge (1927)- 
(1977)? " 0nn " ieS °" Epiph ^ FT* *A.Desr c ;, mMlx , P038 

4 . 0984);° miliM °" ' he S "' fU] W( "™- FT by *F.Oraff in , P0 J 
(|9m - Homily on ,„e Hi g h Priest , „. by .^^ p04[ 

•Life of Ahudemmek, FThy -ENau, P0 1 (1905, 7 ,, 



Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
P0 9 r 23 (1913, 1932). 

!*A.Schcr, PO4(1907). 

(42) SHUBHALMARAN: ET in preparation by D.Lane. 
(43) BABAI the GREAT: 

- Liber de unione, and Against one qnoma, LT by 
HfcVaschaldc, CSCO 34-5 (1915); 

- Excerpt on christology, *L.Abramowski and 
A.E.Goodman, A Nestorian Collection of Christological 
Texts (1972), 123-5; 

- Commentary on Evagrius' Centuries. *W.Frankenberg 

-Canons (surviving only in Arabic translation), *A.VoobuS, 
Syriac and Arabic Documents... Syrian Asceticism (I960), 

- Babai ol'Nisibis, Letter to Cyriacus, S.P.Brock, The Syriac 
Fathers on Prayer, 138- 63. 

(44) MARTYRIUS/SAHDONA: FT by :!: A.dc Halleux, 
CSCO Syr 86-87, 90-91, 110-13 (1960-65). 

(45) ISHO ; YAHB II: FT by L.R.M.Sako (1983). 

(46) JOHN of the SEDRE: 

- Plerophoria, and On Myron, GT by *J.Martikainen, 
GOFS 34 (1991); 

- Anaphora, GT by F.Fuchs (1926); 

- Dialogue with Emir, FT by *F.Nau, Journal asiatiquc 
11:5(1915), 225-79. 



©uldeto.Engi. Translations 

" ^fe of (by Denha), FT by F.Nau, PO 3 ( 1 905)- 
5 1 ?4 - On Epiphany, *S.PBrock, Oriens Christianas 66 (1982), 

: On spread of 'Nestorianism', FT in *1 R n, h 
Chronrque de M.chc! le Syrien Xl.ix (vol. li, 435-40? 

(48) GREGORY of CYPRUS- n Tl 
*I.Hausherr(I93 7 ). L ' YPKU S. On Theona, LT by 


Women^e^roir,^. "" SAH — ^ 
1M Ultopreatioii on U,e Holy Qurbana (1977), 87- 

(|w («) 1S HOTAHB,„: LTbyR . Duva|>CSCOSyr|||2 

- Part I, Wensinck (1923): 

CSCO Syr 224-5 (1995) C ?) ' Ch - 4 ~ 41 ' 'S.P.Brock, 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

- Bookol'Grace (selections), [D.Miller], Ascetic Homilies 

of St Isaac the Syrian (1984), 397-426. 

(56) SHEM'ON D-TAYBUTHEH: (selections), 
fA.Mingana, Early Christian Mystics (1934); IT by PBettiolo 


(57) DADISHO': 

- Comin. on Abba Isaiah's Asceticon, FT by *R.Draguet, 
CSCO Syr 144-5 (1972); 

- On Seven Weeks, etc., *A.Mingana, Early Christian 
Mystics (1934). 

(58) JOHN bar PENKAYE: (Book 15) S.P.Brock. 
Jenisalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 9 (1987), 51-75 = 
Studies in Syriac Christianity (1992), ch.2. 

(59) ANONYMOUS, Apocalypse of Ps. Methodius: 
P.J.Alexander. The Byzantine Apocalyptic Tradition (1985), 36- 
51; GTby *G. Rein ink, CSCO Syr 220-21 (1993); ET of 
X.6 to end, S.P.Brock, in A.N. Palmer, The Seventh Century in 
the West- Syrian Chronicles (1 993), 230-42. 


- Lives of Rabban bar 'Idta and of Rabban Hormizd, 

- Life of Maximus the Confessor, *S.P.Brock, Analecta 
Bollandiana 9 1 (1973), 299- 346 = Syriac Perspectives on Late 
Antiquity (1984), ch. 12. 


- Hexaemeron, *J.B .Chabot, A.Vaschalde, CSCO Syr 44, 
; 48(1928, 1932); 

- Scholia (select), G.Phillips (1 864); 


GUICte to E "9'. Tran 5ta , lons 1 

-0nM yro „,,S.P. Br0ck , Oriensainsdanusf 

CSCOSyr 161-2 (1975), 206-47 Edition, I, ; 

- Chronicle, EWRrnob 7 • , 

in Seen™ ™£ e e ""* M JaCob " C.Moss, Catalog (Tifc 

(62) GEORGE of the ARABS: 

-Hexaemeron ; .see(6J): 

- Comm. on Litur»v *R H n„ 

-OnM yr „, Ae „ er , GT „ yVRyssci(i8s|) ; -• 

- memra on Severus, »K McVev rsrn o « 

(63) ANON YMOUS ' n * L % " ' ' " 3) ' 

*LVa„ Rompay , csc ° U s S y ; ^«o mme „ lary .: m , 

152-3(1973). Ut ~ APH! 0™an, CSCO Syr 

(«) ELM: LTby M.Van R„ ey , CS CO Syr 20 ,. 2 , 19g5 , I 

*R.Graffi n :X^ egrceS ' * G '°"'°«" 0^50); FT by 

- SAcu„„ s , .AJfc^ E-I, cm™ Myslics (1934 , 
«» ABRAHAM bar DASHANDAD; ,' ^ ^ 

1 36 ' 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
.Early Chrstian Mystics (1934). 

(69) ANONYMOUS, Zuqnin Chronicle ('Ps.Dionysius'): 

- LT of vol.1 by *J.B.Chabot, CSCO Syr 43. 66 (1927, 
1949)- FT of Vol.11 [= CSCO Syr 53, 1933] by R.Hespel, CSCO 

Syr 213 (1989); ET of Vol.1, 235-317 = 'Chronicle of Joshua 

• the Stylite', see (25) above; ET of Vol. II, 2-145 , 
W.Witakowski (1996); FTof Vol.11, 145-376, FTby J.B.Chabot 

; (1895); ET of Vol.11 (complete) by A.Harrak, forthcoming. 

(70) THEODORE bar KONl: 
-FTbyRHespelandR.Drag U et,CSCOSyr 187-8 (1981- 

2) [Syriac text: A.Schcr. CSCO Syr 19, 26 (1910, 1912|; FT 
1 (of different recension) by R.Hespel, CSCO , 193, 

• (1983-4). 


- LT of Letters 1-39. LT by *O.Braun, CSCO Syr 31 
l"tI915)- Letter 40, FT by *H.P.J.Cheikho (1983); Letters 43, 

48 ET by S.P.Brock (forthcoming); FT by *H.Pognon, Une 
I version syriaque des Aphorismes d'Hippocratc (1903); Letter 

46 GT by *O.Braun, Oricns Christianus 3 (1903), 300-19; 

To monks of Beth Maron, FT by *R.Bidawid (1956), 91- 
X" 125; 

- Dialogue with the Caliph Mahdi, ET by *A.Mingana 
(1928); FT by H.Putman, LEgliseetlTslam sousTimothee 

- Canons, LT by »J.Labourt (1904). 50-86; GT by 
*E.Sachau, SyrischeRechtsbucher 2 (1908). 53- 117. 



- Seta Q»«<i°n s „„ Pema , euch 
„ " J »"-"i«l decWon, GT, aC,arke(196 * 

^toucher 2 „<,„*), .^ b * *"«,, S y riscte :: 

r («)JOHN tfD ARv C M ' n - Sana(193 ^ 
«CO Syr ,33 C 1 970X "^ °" Ul " r » " by . JJW , 

• Comm. on Nnu/ t« , 

mn *h«uC. t ,9 ':'l 



" C0mm - onH «aeme ro n.GTbvL W I 

-OnP, r °y LSc 'ii«mme( 1977). 

, 3 o ' dLttl,n ^oJ.s.479-608; 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

- Introduction to Psalter. GT by *G.Dieitrich, Einc 
jakobilische Einleiting..(1901 ); FT by J-M. Vosie, Revue 
biblique 38 (1929), 214-28; 

-Comm. on John, GT by *L.Schlimme (1978-81): 

- Comm. on Romans, GT by *J.Rellcr (1994); 

- On Soul, GT by O.Braun (1891); 

- Comm. on Liturgy, *R.H.Connolly and H.W.Codrington, 
Two Commentaries. .(19 13), 24-90: 

- Comm. on Baptism, R.A.Aytoun, repr. in J. Vellian (ed). 
Studies on Syrian Baptismal Rites ( 1 973), 7- 1 5; 

- Comm. on Myron, GT by *W.Strothmann ( 1973). 

- Homilies (see Moss, Catalogue. ..[title in Vlltg]). 

(83) ELIJAH of ANBAR: Memre MIL GT by *A.Juckcl. 
CSCOSyr227 (1996). 

(84) ANONYMOUS, Causa Causarum: GT by C.Kayser 


- Chronicle, LT by *E.W.Brooks, CSCO Syr 23-4 ( 1 9 1 0); 
FTbyL-J.Delaporte (1910). 


- Comm. on Liturgy, LT by H.Labourt, CSCO Syr 14 



- Comm. on Old Testament (see Moss, Catalogue...). 

- Comm. on New Testament, LT by *I.Sedlacek, J- 
B.Chabot, CSCO 16 (1906) [Gospels, Li], 20 (1910) [Apoc, 
Acts, Catholic Epistles [,40 (1922) [Gospels. I.ii|; 


Guide to Engl, Translations 

-AgaimtM e Ikites ; A^nstA,iT l em^^A.N1ij l gana(]927 J l93l) ; 
I 493-. Qm ° nS ' ^ ^ KDemm ^ RiU* Oriental.™ 863)! 

24, 4S HAEUheSYRlAN: ^^abot^, 

(91) SOLOMON of BOSRA: •E.A.W.Budge (1886) 

B Or^CS N cZ Y T. US ' Chr ° nide ' LT 0f vol.I by .J. 
(19^)^, ^ 5 ' ( ' 93?) [S * riac in CSCO Syr 36 
Wit r, '" hy A - Ab0Una and J -M.Fiey. CSCO Syr! 4 

(1974) ISyriacm CSCO Syr 37 (1916)]. 



- Candelabra, I, FT by *J.Bakos PO 99- n irr u 
.Bakos, PO 24; in, FT by ^GraZ' PO 27 IV FT £ 
•J.Khouty, PO 31: V. OT by «R.K„hlha s (I959V vi FT 

by *E.Zi 6mu „d PO 3, Xl^r P -"' Pt>mer - P0 «: X.FT 
FT by *N.S £ d PO 40; ^ RSCd ' P ° 4I: OT ' 

-Zalge,X, FT by *N.Sed, P0 41; 
- 'Osar Raze. Gen - 2 Sam **/i c 
W-CG^dPSl); Gospe]S) 2 ""Xlct^ ^ 

Cone.XTS)^^-'^' Sc ~ v — ^ 

-Ey,con ; Mernral ) FTb yW eule 1 CSCOSyr218-219 ( 1993); 
- Book of the Dove, *A.J,Wensmk (1919); 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

- Swad Sofiya, FT by *H.FJanssens (19371: 

- Ecclesiastical History, LT by J.Abbeloos and TXLamy 

- Chronicle, *E.A.W.Budge (1932); 

- Semhe, GT by *A.Moberg (1907-13); 

- Sullaqa hawnanaya, FT by *ENau (1899-1900); 
-Laughable Stories, *E.A.W.Budge (1897). 
(96) ; ABDISHO' 

- Nomocanon, LT by A.Mai, Scriptorum Vclerum Nova 
Collectio 10:1 (1838), 1-331; 

- Ordo Iudiciorum Ecclesiasticorum, LT by J-M.Voste 

- Pearl. P.Badger. The Nestorians and their Rituals, II 
(1852), 380-422; 

-Catalogue of Syriac writers, P.Badger, The Nestonans..., 

(99)' ANONYMOUS, History of Rabban Sauma and 
YahballahalU: E.A.W.Budge, The Monks of Kublai Khan 
(1928); FT by J.B.Chabot ( 1 895). 


- Comm. on Baptismal liturgy, *P.B.Kadichecni (1980). 


(the sequence follows the chronological order given in Section V) 

- Old Syriac Gospels: *F.C.Burkilt (1904). 
-Eusebius. Palestinian Martyrs: *W.Cureion ( 1861). 



Guide to Engl. Translations 

Syr dZm&Sgg"*'" 9 ** ^vo„ bus ,csco 

- BasiLHexaemeran: *RAV.Thomson,CSCO Syr 222-3 (igjl 

M v ; Tl ^c^ e ° f M °P sucslia - Coram, on John: LT by *I- 
M. Vosie, CSCO Syr 62-3 ( 1 940). Y 

*a m" The0d0re of Mopsuestia, Catechetical HomiliJ 
^.Mingana, Woodbrooke Studies 5-6 (1932-3) FT v 

pZZTwT 91 and by M - Deb,c and others (1996); GT ^ 

- Arisieides, Apology: *J.R.Harris (1891 ). 

- Epiphanius, On Weights and Measures: J.E.Dean (1935). 

- Athanasius, Life of Antony: *E A WBud<.p P-<r,,?; M 


- Macarius, Homilies: GT by *W.Strothmann (1981). 
-Ignatius of Antioch: *W.Curcton (1849). 
-Nilus: ITby*P.BeitioIo(1983). 

- Palladium, Lausiac History: 

mJfSR M ° naC,K>rUm: * E AWB »^, P— of* 

- Apophthegmata/Sayings of the Fathers: 

- Ammonius, Letters: D.J.Chitty (1979). 

l20-3"(^6 b 8 ) ISaiah ' ASCetiC ° n: ^ by * R - Dra § uet ' csc O % 

-Seven®, Correspondence wiihSergius: I.R.Toirancc(I988J. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

- Life of Peter the Iberian: GT by *R.Raabe (1895). 

- Zacharias, Life of Severus: FT by *M.A.Kugener, PO 2 


- Nestorius, Bazaar of Heracleides: G.R.Driver and 
; L.Hodgson (1925); FT by F.Nau (1910). 

-KalilahandDimnah(earliervereion): GTby *F.Schultess( 19 1 1). 

- Ps.Callisthenes, Alexander: *E. A.W.Budge ( 1 889). 

- Cyril of Alexandria, Homilies on Luke: R.Payne Smith ( 1 869). 

- Severus. Hymns: *E. W.Brooks, PO 6-7 (1910-11). 

- Athanasius, Festal Letters: *W.Cureton (1848). 

- Severus, Select Letters: *E. W.Brooks ( 1902-4). and PO 

- Seveais, Homilies (tr. Jacob of Edessa): FT by *M.Bricrc, 
Muffin, PO 4,8,12, 16,20, 22, 23, 25,29, 36-38 (1906-77). 

- Kalilah andDimnahCaterversion): LG.N.Keith-Falconer (1885). 

- Sindbad: H.Gollancz, in Transactions of the Folklore 
Society 8 (1897), 99-130; FT by F.Macler (1903). 





CounIs SCh ° 0l0fBARDAISAN ' BOOkortheL --^ 

onenin?" ^ ^ ^ ^ ° f * P hiIo ^phical dialogue; the 
opening (g.ven below) introduces the topic which 2 
work discusses, namely the problem of the tension betwe! 
ireew.l] and predestination, or fate. 

A few days ago we went up to visit our brother 
Sham shgram, and Barda.san came and found us there. A t 
he had examined himj and seen ^ ^ w ^ Ato 

What were you talking about, for I heard the sound of your 
voices as I was coming in?" Now it was hi ha t 

before his arrival, to ask us "What were you talking about?" so 
y he might join in the discussion. We told him, "Awida he 

has fashioned human beings, and his will is that you should act 
as you are bidden, why did he notfashion human bng"th 
they would not be able to do wrong, and instead always do j£ 

^ g0 ODR,° r ;Vnl S n ^ hKS WiJI WOl ' ,d be accomplished » 

The following Ode (no.40) is a good example of the more 
straightforward of this collection of lyric poems. ^^ 

As honey drips from a honeycomb, 

childreT " ^ ^ ^ * W ° man Ml of love *>' ^ 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
so is my hope upon you, my God. 
As a fountain gushes forth its water, 
s0 does my heart gush forth the pra lS e of the Lord, 
and my lips issue praise to him. 
My tongue is sweet from converse with him, 
my limbs grow strong with singing of him, 
my countenance exults at the jubilation he brings, 
and my spint is jubilant at his love, 
and by him my soul is illumined. 
He who holds the Lord in awe may have confidence, 
for his salvation is assured: 
he will gain immortal life, 
and those who receive this are incorruptible. 



Chapters 26-7 describe the baptism by Judas Thomas of 

the Indian king Gundaphar and his brother Gad. 

They asked if they ^\^wards God, let us receive the 
"Seeing that our souls are turned tow ^ 

baptismal mark, for we have ^ar ^God ^ ^ 

Judas says to them I too < e J° c< ^ T w >, 

Eucharist and the blessing ot this Chi ist wn i 



Sample Passages... 

«« ■»* .l/ s ii;:t:t:*s ,,,cm - Ttm 

room win, ,|, e „„„, j . nousc ' ■""" as Ihcy entered [he 

Lord appea,«l LXl^Z? '" fr ° m °'' '"»• <* 
They just heard the voice bunh-' h , ° ""'" y ""' brol1 ™"" 
who it was. for drey £ " 5 d ' d nm see '^one orreafa 
»P '-d ,„„d on d d^e Coo" T^ **» *» « 
head,, saying , "Come, hot name if C ^ S °"' C 0il °" "'* 
compassion tan, on hich ™ A " Sl; corac ' p o™r of 

«* come, sh . t b™ e ;i°r ,mM r y; C0B *™»- 

■nysteries; co„,e Mo her on— C " me ' R =™aler of hidden 
-ay be upon " 'f ™ ^ SeVe " houses, soma, yourrest 

-ncdiadon, and^d ^mind^r, "•""*" ° f 
come, Holy Spirit, and p„ rify d, rZ ' V "^ ■™" S me " ; 1 

■ yonn/s hir,: p :z^ ™ n ihere ^^ - - 

•orches was d m „ " " n t„ , ^ "' e liglu of l " c <*« 

'hey wen, outside he Z Mdd" f ''? '" "= S " e " Bul *n 

said, "We were no even !hfe,„ ? " Km ^ ™ e A P° slte *cn 

nn,ch for our vision" „ ^ "'J ^ «*"■• «* ■■ h » 

come, he broke the Euchiri« •! , , ^' " nd mornin S "^ 

Egypt challenge, the king oi^v h n ^ ^ the kin " of 

ng 01 Assyria to solve a set of riddles- if 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
he fails to solve them, he must pay Egypt three years' tribute, 
but if he solves them Egypt will pay him the tribute. When no 
one at the Assyrian court is able to solve the riddles, Ahikar's 
friend produces Ahikar, who rises to the occasion and solves the 
riddles, which arc set out in the following extract; Ahikar himself 
is represented as the narrator. 

The king of Eypt said to me, "Ahikar, explain to me this 
parable: there is a column on the top of which are twelve cedars; 
in each cedar are thirty wheels, and in every wheel there are two 
sections, one while and the other black". I replied, "My lord 
king, the oxherds in our country know this parable which you 
tell. The column of which you told me is the year, the twelve 
cedars are the twelve months of the year, the thirty wheels are 
the thirty days in the monih, and the two sections, one white and 
the other black, are the daytime and the nighttime". 

The king spoke to me again, "Ahikar, twine together five 
ropes out of river sand". I told him, "My lord, give instructions 
for a sand rope to be brought to me out of your treasury, and 
then I shall make one like it". At this he said to me, "If you do 
not do this, I will not give you the tribute of Egypt". I then sat 
down and pondered in my heart how I could do it. I went outside 
the king's palace and bored five holes in a wall on the east of the 
palace; when the sun came into the holes I scattered some sand 
in them, and the furrow caused by the sun began to appear as 
though the sand was being spun in the holes. At that point I said 
to the king, "My lord, give orders that they take these ropes 
away, and I will twine some more for you in their place". When 
the king and his nobles saw this, they were astonished. 

The king again gave orders that a broken upper mill-stone 
be brought to me. He said to me, "Ahikar, sew up this broken 
mill-stone for us". I then went and brought along a bottom part 


Sample Passages... 

of a mill-stone and laid it in f ront of ., , . 

k "ig, seeing that I am a fel ?' Saym * "^^ 

tools of my craft wu me o de 1 km"" ' haVe n0t *» * e ' 

«to lower milestone nee hi 1 ^ '° CUl Stri P s ™of 

Andsince Ihaveseen you s i 1 alive T w T ^ g ° d ° f E ««* 
^y with a banquet" He then I v ^ ^ im ° a S P eciiJ 

Egypt, whereupon I at one e S T ^ *""*' '"^ f ™ 
the king. reUlrned b «* ^ my lord Sennacherib 


(a) Demonstration VI Cnn ik a d ^ 
have undertaken l0 live , Hfe , ™ y 0yama - ie ' *°s«»° 
10. Aphraha, ope™ w! COawr '"« 1 '» Christ), section, 7- 

>he Qyama a.a.nTeS™;^ ^ ="'* -,,- guidelines for die con, Jf„ ,, raerabers : he to 
(#8). whose aim ^SS^J^ "^ <*"» 
breaks in 10 artistic prose as teZ ', , '' '" * Apnrata 

invoived in d,e incanX I #,0 Z ™ °"*^°™ 
Exchange' between Ond! i S ° eS °" l0 desc "be the 

Ae incarnation: aT, h e°c ™ Sr'*W«tita* 
^-n hodv from ,2^^ ?°™^ 
«),«nd at the Ascension ni *;/ , of course also 

of good conduct - contrarv ,„„„? m ' m,!ln, y S'Kn as apledge 
«*«■ by force,; ,„°e2 ^."* «*«■ hostage! 
who is in particular present h,;ir t r° rd Sends his S PWl. 
his Spirit in. rcmai s w T .fT " *" ' Ki " £ ' S S °"'i 

- in a temple, ,„ e^StS^ • '° t Wd " h ™°"' 
■ho«Sh, may be somewhat unftm ,"' n ? S , Slnce A Phraha,', 
elucidation b provided in sockets "" Smi ° n ' «"* 


Brief outline of Syr, Lit. 
7 O virgins who have betrothed your souls to Christ, 
when one of the bnay qyama says to one of you, "I will live with 
you and you shall minister to me", you should reply, I am 
betrothed to a man who is King, and he is the person to whom I 
minister- if I leave this ministry to him, and minister to you 
instead then my betrothed will become angry with me, wnte a 
letter of divorce, and dismiss me from his house. II you want to 
be held in honour by me, and I too want to be held in honour by 
you take care to prevent harm coming to both me and you: do 
not put fire in your lap, lest you burn your clothes [Prov. 6:27- 
81 Rather remain alone in an honourable stale, and I too will 
be alone in my honourable state. Make yourself a wedding gilt 
■ out of the things which the Bridegroom has prepared or his 
everlasting wedding feast, and prepare yoursell to meet him; I, 
in turn will make ready the oil so that I may enter with the wise 
virgins, and not be kept back outside with the foolish virgins 
[Matt. 25:1-121". 

8 Listen, therefore, my beloved, to what I am writing to 
• you about - matters that are appropriate for ihidaye, bnay qyama, 
vir«ins (male and female), and qaddishe. Above all else, it is 
appropriate that the man upon whom the yoke ol Christ us laid 
should have a sound faith, in accordance with what 1 wrote to 
you in the first letter [= Demonstration 1 , on Faith]: he should 
be assiduous in fasting and in prayer; he should be fervent in 
love of Christ, he should be humble, composed and alert; lus 
speech should be gentle and kind, he should be sincere-minded 
with everyone, he should speak carefully weighing his words, he 
should make a barrier for his mouth against any harmful word. 
he should distance himself from hasty laughter; he should not 
have a liking for finery in clothing, nor again should he let his 
hair "row and adom it, nor is it appropriate lor him to use on it 
scented unguents; nor should he take a seat at banquets. It is 



s °mple Passages... | 

, ovegr ^ou Hnollend an dre ce, re , m e rM( , a „ dheshou|dnoi 

^^™zr„nr„r an ^ — . u, 

^"mommras. mmo "™-™ JI « him „ ot „„„„,,' 

Let him not scoff at •> 
"W* ■» » tocher *Sr N * re " e "' s <* * ** o, 
wh « » unabte ,„ ta feel ™* N ° rSh0uM " c ™b««^ 

~-a^Ce^r ,te r ePted ' ta *'e 
*e occasion wnen his wori ™ ^ mze ^ own dig„ ity . 0n 

d ^*«^^ teKeo( , Bsttmich : 

Let him reveaj his <: 
* ^ Suard him S o lf aga ™; P;™" •*) fears 0d , b u , 

^ ta tos W ve„ ott0n ^r c X e ; ,0 a 1 f E " em5 ''« i ' 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
When people are indignant with him over something good, 
let him simply add to his good action, and not feel harmed because 
of jealousy. 

When he has something and gives it to the poor, let him 
rejoice. When he has nothing, let him not be sad. 

Let him have not association with an evil person, and let 
him not speak with an abusive man, lest he give himself over to 
abuse [cp Prov. 1:11; Sir. 11:33-4]. 

Let him not argue with a blasphemer, lest his Lord be reviled 
as a result of him. 

Let him keep false accusation at a distance, and let him not 
seek to please anyone at all through flattery. 

These are the things appropriate for the ihidaye who are 
receiving the heavenly yoke and are becoming disciples to Christ; 
for thus is it appropriate for the disciples of Christ to imitate 
Christ their master. 

9. Let us take on the likeness from our Saviour, my beloved: 
being rich, he made himself poor [2 Cor. 8:9]; 

though he was exalted, he brought low his Majesty, 

though his abode was in the heights, there was nowhere 
for him to lay his head (Matt. 8:20), 

though he was going to come on the clouds [Dan. 7: 13, 
Matt.26:64], he rode on an ass [John 12:15] and so entered 

though he is God, the Son of God, he took on the likeness 
of a servant [Phil. 2:7]; 

though he was the resting place from all labours, yet he 



Sample Passages 

be tempted |Matt.4;22^ ' ° l " '" " ,c rt *»s| 

of the sea [Matt.8:24ffJ ; P e boat in the midst 

-bough he was the phys~ aU m S ° rlU ' maD b ™ K 
^re fixed in hi., hjnX 3 " *"* " llnun b ™S*. »« "ails 

* b r is 2 [ M o : h 27 ui ; e ;r i,niy ^ * *» *» 

10. Such great humility did our li fr r • 
»n himself! Let us therefore LT ' Ver mamfest <° "* 

beloved. When 01 r S? * u ° UrSdVeS hurable as well, my 


T , maKe lls share m his condition 

™>t o/t^r^ ™.-^ [so. hishuman hod y ,, M , 

PWge f«. o,e Parade,;, lhaI ^ fii™^'' he '*' for us a 
was raised up. es from hlra . while he himself 

Hewhohad„o„eed,p rov ed, hethe m ean sf „r fn ,r, ffing 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

our need. 

What belongs to us was his from the very beginning, but 
as for what belongs to him, who else could have given it us . 

For it is true what our Lord promised us: ''Where I am, 
you too shall be" [John 14:31 - because what he has taken from 
us [sc. humanity] is placed in honour with him, and a crown is 
set upon his head |Heb. 2:9]. 

Likewise we should hold in honour what we have received 
of his: what belongs to us is held in honour with him, though it 
is not now existing in our human condition. Let us honour what 
belongs to him which is in its own nature. 

If we hold him in honour, we will go to him, since he took 
of what belonged to us and ascended. But if we despise him, he 
will take away from us what he has given us. 

If we renege on his pledge, then he will take what belongs 
to himself and deprive us of what he promised us. 

Let us magnify as is due the King's Son who is with us [sc. 
Christ's eucharistic presence], for a hostage [sc. Christ's human 
body] has been taken away from us in exchange lor him. 
Whoever holds the King's Son in honour will discover many 
gifts emanating from the King, 

What belongs to us which is now with him sits there in 
honour with a crown set upon his head, for he has sealed him 
with the King. But as for us who are so poor, what can we do 
for the King's Son who is with us? Nothing else is required by 
him of us except that we should adorn our temples lor him, so 
that when the time is completed and he goes to his Father, he 
may acknowledge us to him, in that we have held him in honour. 
When he came to us, he did not have anything of ours, nor 



S °mple Passages. 
Now when n-.h,,-;^] 

f «. - im binh , ft X4 :;„Tr d ? ;; ,e bteed m ^ «•» 

- Word became » * « cm fe * a d ^ „ and 

»<= wail tack io hi s sender he ml " ' :14,: and <*» 

« '«e Apo s „e said, "He^l """""^Mbrong,,, 
™h him i„ heaven" fE ph 2 , " "f »P «*« ™,sed u S „ si 

™me s to an end" , MaI1 . 28 20 ' Fn r * y °" umii ,h <= ™* 

° f ^^n„dte^eSr ndb t ow ^^^ 1 

"a overshadows aii ,he da ,^h f "" """* «"i « 
Wthont I* being dim,„i shed ,; " Ch Wllh a Portion of himseir. 

f* "' Km, jus, as he said ' W,„ '' ^ " c is in ""'■ ™> » 

?«° 1 « h another pLe h e S ai" T "7 ' "" in y ° U " '**» 
(John 10:30). enesa.d, I and ray Father are one" 

(h) Demonsiraiinn Yym 
■Win toe theme of fc^ 0K fn. This late , „p 
"«ehy effected for hJLTv The ^"^ "™ «'™Uo„ is 
«« » characteristic of early s^f 1 which A l"-™h.t 

«1 he reintroduces the theme oTcJ'!"' J* " "* C " d ° f 
(i.e. pledge) raised ' ^hnst s body as a 'hostage' 

r«urrecu„n. ,„ #52 a nh " h , "' T'"* as a '*" »f o»r 
freely toChris, Moctof 2 ^ S im ° "^ Messed 
form of artistic pr„ se . eXlracl ,s '" a carefully balanced 

•y««i response toonrsms he wants 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
us to be put in the right; and although he is not benefitted by our 
actions, yet he exhorts us to act nobly in his presence. But when 
we refuse to ask from him, then he is angry with us, for lie 
invites us continually, saying "Ask, and receive" [Matt. 7:7], and 
•when you ask, you shall find" fcp Matt. 21:22]. 

His riches provide fully when there is need, for there is no 
one who will say "1 have received sufficient" when he takes from 
God's glorious treasure. 

He desires people to ask him, he invites us continually, 
i; Ask, and receive", and "when you ask, you shall find". 

He desires people to throng to receive from him - for 
whoever tastes of his riches will want to take again from them. 
For who is there like him, who says "Ask, and receive", and who 
only gets angry with us when we do not ask of him? 

49. And even when we had not asked him, he sent us his 
Gift, one which had never previously been found among us - 
sending us the Messiah as a human being who might laugh at the 
Evil One and his armies, and chase away from us that guilty 

He sent the Innocent One to us, to be judged and 
condemned, so that the guilty might become innocent by means 
of his innocent judgement. 

He sent the Valiant One under the likeness of our sick 
state, in order to strengthen our weakness against the power of 
the Evil One. 

He put on the body that comes from dust, and so drew it 
to his own nature. 

He hid in us the salt that dissolves what is rotten, so that 



Sample Passages... 

when *e serpent wanted to approach to consume the rottenne J 

* rnvbl be lilted with loathing at the salt which it is unableTea' ; 

accord^ TT In T CCm ° nC ' hiS own So "' to L1S > * ^c i„ 
accordance wuh our death, so that death might bc put to shame 

Great is the Gift of the Good God that he has given to the' 
msigru, icant. What more excellent a gift than his Son would : 
have been appropriate to give us? 

When we were even greater sinners than we are now he 
« « thus gift; when we shall have been put in the right "what ' 
wdl 1 e gwe us. ,1 not life with him who came to us -seeing ! 
£«£« own Son, sending him to dishonour^ 

How amazing and^ munificent is his gift t us . For the ^ 
K.ngleit * own countr?to provide a mcans^r our heal^! 
conducted himself in the steps of the feeble body by me ns of ' 
birth Uke ours, and by means of dishonour much Late t n 

h ve to v P r ;frH ° U ; salvation - A * for me, this is what! 
I^f ° 0d d,d . n0t have a »y g"t greater than tins to send 
U£ When he came, he received from us a pledge, and he wen 

[ L°T:-2m m ir d h tol A d us ' " You are ,n me ' - d < - 2 

seld w ,1" J ' ""I the Ap ° StIe Said ' " He ™ s ^ "* up and 
seated us wuh him m heaven" [Eph. 2:6]. The body which he 

put on from us « the beginning of our resurrection: he has re d 
it from servitude and raised it up to himself. 

He has assured us of his promises that we should be with 

Zn J": 16 £?? " Wta » > am ' so t0 ° ^all you be" 
IJohn 14.3] Henceforth, let us rejoice at the hostaee [Christ's 

SS2S £ has bcen led off from us and wh ° ^ 

wuh the glonous King. Great is the gift of the Good God towards 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

feeing that a hostage has been led f^ » *££[ 
who became like us, and he ™~^ n j * dam , lhc body 
Ihe border. This is none other than the bom o 

LI stopped off when he became debilitated. 

52 We rejoice in you, beloved Child .who have trodden 
out for us a path lo lhc place where we would be; 


bidden within ns your Spirit as the medicine for our 

we worship you and your exalted Father who have exalted 
us throw* you and called us to himself; 

we acknowledge you in the ^f£*Z££f * 
who wished that wc might live through the death of h,s Only 


we praise in you the divine Being who separated you from 
his Essence and sent you to us; 

tons acknowedge with our months, to our best ability, the 
Powerthal came to give life to the weak; 

to us be wakeful each day to utter praise through the 
beloved Son to the Father who sent him; 

to us rejoice in his gilt, that he ,00 may have .joy in us; 
,et us acknowledge in him the Father, that he too may 
acknowledge us |cp Mall. 10:32). 

Let us ask for .hat gift from his treasury that we have need 


■ ; - 

Sample Passages... 

of, for his own need is ,o give life to the needy i 1 

the Evil One- to him hplnn„ , e may esca P e fron > 

- he has 2Jzz & sr ?r th him is ii£M ' whne 

can find a linut to bT £ ™ ^o " " °' ^ N ° °" e 
depth of his wisdom. " CM com P rcIl ^d the 

12*. EPHREM 

U n^ c dr^:r E ~tat:r e,oEphrera ' s 

Position, neither aorta] nor immorTa Cod ' mc ™ cd ^ , 

commandment' no. to ea, o Zt rt 8 ™ them ^ '^ 
that they might exenrfs, , , Knowledge in order 

ohedienee SLSS^^ T" by . Ch °° Si " g be '™» 
could '00010, on tht,7om of ^ "k^™ 6 ' then God 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
immortal life: they would have acquired divinity in their human 
State: if they had thus acquired infallible knowledge and immortal 
life, they would have done so in this body. 

Thus, by what it promised, the serpent annulled what they 
were to have had: it made them think that they would receive 
this by transgressing the commandment, thus effecting that they 
would not receive it as a result of keeping the commandment. It 
withheld divinity from them by means of the divinity which it 
promised them, and it brought about that those to whom n had 
promised enlightenment from the Tree of Knowledge, should 
not have their eye; illumined by the Tree of Life, as promised. 

Now had they been willing to repent after transgressing 
the commandment, even though they would not have received 
back what they had possessed prior to their transgression, « 
nevertheless they would have escaped from the curses 
pronounced over the earth and over themselves. For the whole 
reason for God's delay in coming down to them was in case they 
might rebuke one another and so, when the Judge did come to 
them, they might ask for mercy. The serpent's arrival was not 
delayed, so that their temptation at the beautiful sight ol the Tree 
might not be too great; the Judge, on the other hand, did delay 
in coming to them, in order to give them an opportunity to prepare 
a plea. However, the haste on the part of the tempter did not 
help them, even though this haste was designed to help them; 
nor did they profit from the Judge's delay, even though his delay, 
too, was intended for that very purpose. 

(b) Commentary on the Diatessaron XXI.9-1 0. While much 
of the Commentary is in straightforward prose (and sometimes 
consists of little more than a series of notes), several passages 
make use of artistic prose and take on a lyrical character, as 
happens in section 10 of the passage below. 




Sample Passages... 

9. The sym bols of the Wood [of the Cross] and the Lamb 
began to be depicted with Abraham: in the case of the sacrifice 
of Isaac there is the symbol of the lamb with the tree [Gen 22] 
while Jacob made manifest the wood that is related to the water 
[Gen.30:37ff]. Thus the wood was worthy that Christ should be 
hung upon it, for 'no bone was broken in him' [John 19:36]. 

The earth's fruits are ripened on wood, and the treasures 
ol the sea are mastered by wood [i.e. ships]; likewise those of 
the body and the soul [sc. require wood, i.e. the Cross] This is 
the Wood which was sculpted by the wrath of madmen; it was 
like a dumb man in its silence, and it became a means of growth 
up to the heights for humanity by means of its lightness. 

10. One of the soldiers struck him with a lance [John 
19:34], t 

Now through the abuse done to him 
lie honoured his friends 

and cast dishonour on those who dishonoured him, 
so that his enemies might learn his justice, 
and his friends his grace. 

For the fountain from his side manifested the blood which 
made complaint, while the water issued in haste so as to forgive: 
the blood, by its very sight, 
cried out against his killers, 
while the water, by what it symbolized, 
was to purify his friends, 
so that they might realize 
that alter he had died he was alive, 
and however much they increased their torturing him, 
hidden treasures would be revealed in him. 
Heavenly riches abounded in each one of his limbs 
and when the destroyers touched them 
his limbs were breached 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

so as to enrich his friends 

and accuse his crucifiers. 

I have run to all your limbs, 

and from them all I have received every kind of gift. 

Through the side pierced with the sword 

I entered the garden fenced in by the sword [Gen.3 :24] . 

Let us enter in through the side that was transfixed, 

for we were stripped naked 

by the counsel of the rib that was extracted [Gen. 2:21-22]. 

For the fire which burnt in Adam 

burnt him in that rib of his. 

Fortius reason die side ofthe Second Adam has been pierced, 

and from it comes a flow of water 

to quench the fire ofthe first Adam. 

(c) Letter to Publius 22-25. Part ofthe letter consists in a. 
meditation on the nature of Gehenna, insofar as it can be , 
perceived with the help of 'the mirror' of the Gospel. 

22. Maybe the Gehenna of the wicked consists in what 
they see, and it is their own awareness of separation that burns 
them, and their mind acts as the flame. The hidden judge who 
is seated in the discerning mind has spoken, and has become for 
them there the righteous judge who beats them without mercy 
with the torments of contrition. Perhaps it is diis which separates 
them out, sending each one to the appropriate place; perhaps it 
is this which grasps the good with its just right hand, sending 
them to that Right Hand of mercy; and it again which takes the 
wicked in its upright left hand, casting them into the place called 
'the left-hand' Matt. 25:41]; maybe it is this which silently 
accuses them, and quietly pronounces sentence upon them. 

23. My opinion is that this inner intelligence has been 
made the judge and the law, for it is the embodiment of the 
shadow of the law, and it is the shadow of the Lord of the Law. 




Sample Passages... 

For this reason such authority has been given to it so that it may 
be divided up , n every generation and yet remain one; be marked 
out in every body, yet remain not divided; be depicted in every 
heart, yet remain not split up. It can fly unwearied over all 
rebuking everyone without sham, teaching everyone, yet mim 
no force; gwing counsel, but employing no compulsion" 
reminding everyone of the judgement to come by means of 
warnings; bringing to their mind the Kingdom of heaven, so 
that they may desire it; explaining the rewards of the good so 
that they may yearn for them; showing to them the power of 
judgement, so that they may restrain themselves; telling them of 
the gentleness of the Only-Begotten, so that they may tale 
courage; running with them after every good thin" and 
strengthening them, hovering over them and rebuking them as 
they stoop to do something that is hateful. For its mercy 
resembles that of its fiord, in that it does not depart from them 
when they are soiled in filth, and it is not ashamed of them when 
they he wallowing in the mud. Those who listen to it, it will 
remind, those who disobey, it will overtake, here on earth it is 
mingled with them in every way, while there, at the day of 
judgement, it stands up in front of them. 

24 When I beheld all this in that clear mirror of the holy 
Gospel of my Lord, my soul grew feeble, and my spirit was 
quenched; I bowed down my full stature to the dust and my 
heart was filled wi th bitter groans, in the hope that somehow my 
stains might be washed white in my tears. 1 remembered the 
tood Lord and the gentle God who wipes out the bond of the 
debtors debts through tears, who accepts weeping in place of 
burnt sacrifices, and when I reached this point I took refuge in' 
penitence and sheltered under the wings of repentance; I took 
cover in the shade of humility, saying 'what else do I need 
henceforth to offer to him who has no need of burnt sacrifices, 



Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
?: apart from a meek spirit, for this constitutes the perfect sacrifice 
that can make propitiation for shortcomings; and a broken heart 
in place of burnt offerings is something that God will not reject 
[cp Ps.51 :17- 1 8]. Instead of a libation of wine, I will oifer tears 
that propitiate'. 

25. This, then, is what 1 beheld in that eloquent and living 
' : mirror, in which the images of all humanity's actions vibrate, 
from Adam up to the end of the world, and from the resurrection 
Until the day of the just judgement. And what I heard from that 
blessed voice which was audible from within the minor 1 have 
recorded in this letter, my beloved brother. 

(d) In order to illustrate Ephrem's stanzaic poetry 
(madrashe), two comparatively short poems are selected here. 
Hymns on Faith 49. 

1 . How splendid was Noah, whose example surpassed 

all his contemporaries: they were weighed in the scales of 
justice and were found wanting; a single soul, with its armour ol 
chastity, outbalanced them all. They were drowned in the Flood, 
havin" proved too light in the scales, while in the Ark the haste 
and weighty Noah was lifted up. Glory be to God who took 
pleasure in Noah. 
Refrain: Praises to your dominion! 

2. Noah extended his ministry either side of the Flood, 
depicting two types, sealing up the one that had past, opening up 
that which followed. Between these two generations he 
ministered to two symbols, dismissing the former, making 
preparations for the latter. He buried the generation grown old, 
and nurtured the youthful one. Praises be to God who chose 
him. - 


Sample Passages... 

3. Oyer the Hood ihe ship of the Lord of all Jlew. it left fa 
east, rested in the west, Hew off to the south, and 
he north; ns flight over the water served as a prophecy lb 2 
dry land, preaching how its progeny would be fruitful in ev L n 
quarter, abounding in every region. Praises to his Saviour. 

4. The Ark marked out by its course the sign of the 
Preserver, the Cross afii. Steersman, and the Wood oils Sailor 
who has come to fashion for us a Church in the waters of bapuW 
with the t reef old name he rescues those who reside in her 2 
» Place of the dove, the Spirit administers her anointing nd * 
mystery of her salvation. Praises to her Saviour. 

«*•!. h' HlS Symb ° IS ^ in lhC laW ' his l yP es ;irc m «he Ark; 
each bears testtmony to the other - just as the Ark's recesses 
were em pt.ed out, stftoo are the types in the Scriptures emptS 
out, io by his coming he embraced the symbol of the Law and 
m bus churches he brought to completion the types of the Ark 
Piaise to your coming. 

6 My mind wanders, having fallen into the flood 
of our Saviour's power. Blessed is Noah, who. thou-h his 
Skp, the Ark, floated around over the Flood waters, yet hfs sol 
was recollected. May my faith, Lord, be a ship for my weaS 
ior the toohsh are drowned in the depths of their own^gS 
you. Pauses be to him who begot you. Hymns on the Fast, no 3. 

I. Who has peered back to see Adam and Eve, and the 

sTretc y hi erPCn !' "I* C r nmg m WS hCart bul ^ °» his M 
St etching out as he beguiles childlike Adam and simple Eve? 

The Tree shines out, its fruit glistens, the fault is great, while 

Justice remains resplendent and mighty. Blessed is he who mixed 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
into his just sentence a flood of mercy when he showed 
compassion on the guilty. 

2. Who can endure to look upon that honoured pair who 
were stripped naked all of a sudden? 

The Evil One stood there, a happy onlooker, while the 
Good One saw him and watched. 

Who can fail to weep, seeing the great Adam thus brought 
; low, the chaste man covering his shame with the leaves? [Gen.3:7] 
Blessed is he who had pity on Adam's leaves and sent a 
Robe of Glory to cover his naked state. 

3. Who is there who can expound that Tree which causes 
those who sought it to go astray? 

It is an invisible target, hidden from the eyes, which wearies - 
those who aim at it. 

It is both the Tree of Knowledge, and of the opposite: it is 
j the cause of knowledge, for by it humanity knows what was the 
gift that was lost, and the punishment that took its place. 

Blessed is that Fruit which has mingled a knowledge of 
the Tree of Life into mortals. 

4. The serpent peered out and saw that the dove in Paradise 
was hungry; the pernicious one turned himself into a dove, he 
who is utterly accursed became like her, so that she might become 
his; he sung to her a pleasant song, so that she might fly off amid 

Blessed is that voice of the Father which came down to 
give comfort and to remove our mother's woe. 

5. Let not our fast provide delight for the Evil One as we 
use back-biting on our friends; for of old they proclaimed a fast 



I u 

Sample Passages... 

- and stoned Naboth to death: the Evil One was delighted with 

their fasts ! O fasters, who instead of bread, devoured the flesh; 

of a man ! During the fast they lapped up blood. Because they 

devoured human flesh, they became food for the dogs, f 1 Kings 


Blessed is he who gives his own Body to our crazed mouths, 
so that we might cease from back-biting! 

6. The Merciful One peered out, saw a soul in the pit, and 
devised how to draw it up. Through his mere nod he could have 
saved that soul, yet he girded up his love in readiness for his 
labour, and put on humanity: he acquired its childlike state so 
that he might bring it to taie knowledge; he sang to it with his 
lyre lowly songs, inviting it to be raised up. His Cross raised him 
up to the heights - so that Eve's chi ldren might likewise be raised 
up on high. £ 

(d) At the beginning of the second of his memre on Faith 
Ephrcm provides an analogy from the natural world to illustrate . 
the relationship of the Father to the Son, and at the same I 

time to show how knowledge of the Father (here indicated by 
the 'Blessed Root') is only possible through 'tasting' him in 
the Son, the Fruit of the Root. 

Perfect is the Father in his Being, so loo is the First-Born 
in his being begotten: perfect Father of perfect Son, perfect in 
his birth, like his Begetter. Very perfect, too, is a tree's root- 
stock, and perfect like it is its fruit; the root does not hide from 
its fruit the sweet taste that exists in the tree. Though the root 
cannot be contained, its sweet taste resides in its offspring. If 
roots do not hide their treasures from their fruits how could the 
Blessed Root hide his riches from his Fruit? Look at the tree: in 
its bosom it hides away its sweet taste from all, yet its sweet 
taste that is hidden from all is poured forth in the bosom of its 


Br ,ef outline of Syr. lit. 
.ttMte it distributes it 

I tose who eat ol U. Ttaou 

us lh e sweetness that earslsur havc be cn 

Had teFtuit not received U, 

Ihe loves them. s0 does the 

it is possible to taste in the Fm« 


13 ..BOOKofSTEre. inisffY of the hidden 

w mHomilv Henude *= M lhe to per 

a „d the manifest church the > a» churches ', that B. the 

* WBd "^ XleciionsM. 

The passage is trtten ^.^ 

^tevisibleaitarandv.sibepne^oot ^ 

hrinss forgiveness, then oui bod es of pralse . 

„X will our hearts become alurs o ^P wilh ils 

"C ban « have revealed to « dut chu ^ ^ 

Z telighlandits priesthood wh rear jn .^^ 

birth and brings up fair emi 

church on high. 




1 1 

Sample Passages... 

^P^mtCel^;^^^ -eryone: fc , (ar 
L ^ Prayed, and his apos e wT l " y ° Ur L ° rd; ''^ito* 
--'•iced h,s Body Jb ~ h »**»* « it and £ 
he <* U rch in.tmth, and fe^ ^^^^ ** 
^ryone as children L ,b ■ , m ° ther wh ° brings „„ 
°«* Lord dwell, - becaus th I t thiU ^ ™ d '-art ln w ; 
^Ple and an altar, se^ tu^L" L^ ^ " « in ^ 
^ntten "Your bodies are te mp s ' ^ ^ the -> as it i s 
■n your inner person" [ , Cor 6 , 9 ] 0rd and Ch ™ <Ms : 

As for the chm-Hi ■ i 
inning i' rom .here, ^ ^ 1"' f J"" » ««« ■*. iB 
™ ■ "" directions. Alte, iK i,T™ " ' ='" " as '*'"<= ™ up™ • 
'"'» Wi* aJong wi|h , ■£*«* >"c church on ear,,, ca ra 
f*™ of i,s nlini .,j, y £ £*"» »" d >* alto; accrue l0 £ 
"««. as a pr ic | - n „.aX ^"omwardiy, -M fc. 
7'Me church become liJZ, J*™,"" 10 arc diligent i„ thi 
■*» "■ Thi, is why ,„ e ltih,e c tl e h y Ch " rCh US "^ '"How 

^""tetaofocL^i ! "l"'^"" - Panics 

-d won;:;::^;^^d bapd Sm , , ives blrlh to 

^aned. Then they corn7 to *„ ? ^ miU untiJ <% a 
beJo ^bothtothebL a T ri ° f T h and t0 k "owled. e i h 

food, superior to milk, until thev H^ ^ ""* C ° nsume s ^ 
o^ord himself i„ truth, j t s L f "^f Perfect ■* consume 
consume me shafl be 21 hi ^ Said ' "Whoever shall 

** '-ve eaten * £^ £f **■ 6:58J. On 
ood belongs to the fully mature wh AptWt,e said ' "*e trul 

^ow what b the hei g ht, y d e ;;L h Z T^ " st ™& 4 

V "> length and breadth" [H e b. 5.-J4- 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Eph. 3:18] - then ihey attain to that church on high which makes 
them fully mature, and they enter the city of Jesus our King. 
There they worship in that great and perfect palace which is the 
mother of all the living and the fully mature. 

Accordingly we should not despise the visible church which 
brings up everyone as children. Nor should we despise this church 
of the heart, seeing that she strengthens all who are sick. And 
we should yearn for the church on high, for she makes all the 
saints fully mature. 

(b) The Book of Steps distinguishes between two groups 
of Christians, those who follow Christ's 'lesser commandments' 
(of active charity), and those who follow his 'greater 
commandments' (of total renunciation of the world and the radical 
imitation of Christ). The former are described as the 'upright' , 
and the latter as the 'fully mature (or: perfect)'. In the imagery 
of the present homily (19), the fully mature (who areexplicity 
associated with the ihidaye) travel to the city of the Kingdom by 
asteep and difficult path, while the upright, who are also described 
as being children or infirm, can do so by the easier, but 
indirect, side roads. The passage is taken from the opening of 
Homily 19. 

1. If you wish to become an ihidaya, and are eager to go 
quickly to the city of our Lord Jesus, then lend me the ears of 
yourmind and I will show you how to reach the city of our King 
by a direct way - provided you have the strength to travel in the 
way I shall show you, for the gradients which I shall direct you 
to go up are very steep. Furthermore there are many side roads 
which lead off the direct road; these take you on a circuit around 
many mountains: day after day you will be held back, until the 
day of your departure from this life arrives and you find yourself 
still on the side roads which lead off the direct road to one side 



i : 

Sample Passages 

Now the end ofyourrnaHic fnii m * • , 
and i. commences when yon b Min * (< "' : '"'"^ 

your failings I, is like The™ Upro<U ' r0m yours,:lf " 

seen in (h 4 0r t^T noo LTV° "^ *" m » k 
have never seen and wh ,, ' d ' reCt ym l ° ci ''« J«» 

'eadm, o^lTs^ZueZ*"™- """ "'* "* 
travel circuitouslv for , iT , y " as,ray ' and y™ »"'» 

-hich you St „ c'T " f "' '° reaCh the ■*«» » I 
to the hidden ci,/ many 7' 1 " "^ ™ d »** *» 
directions, and iLrZ'l T'f ' ead ° ff " ln * ™* 
to thai co nny who 'J d °™ T* "" ™ d which «« roads tefcS^, IT T ^ P °'' m ° Ul l0 y0 " a " "■« 
and you will m s 1 si r/ ' '" U,UlWc l0 travel *«% 

and you will 1^^^™^'*™!"*^"^ 
and kingdom i„ that wnrlH ?, "" ourLord in hiscil, 

saints. °' ld ' " 0r W1 " y™ ™,er that city of the 

country J h t:„tTc njt?K l,,ead0ff,heraMure ™ d '°* 
no. bad; bm ou^ tfn Z. T *"* '° ^ « «*■* 
people off that hith oad l r , h ° P™" Wra have dire <« 

eneou„s b ;t : ff r L, H^ d r owconnneswiiite 

For you will fee ToZZZ k rMd ' eadm6 direcl <» «« city, 
and the dep„, ^Ty^TJ 'T T *** ^ . 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
he will be broken to pieces; whoever enters die fire will be burnt 
up, and whoever falls into the water will be drowned - while 
above, the ascent is arduous, steep and narrow. If you wish to 
travel to that city, then force yourself when you are at such a 
height to slick to the climb, without veering either to the right or 
to the left, or to the depth, lest you perish; climb straight on up, 
so that you may suddently arrive in that great and glorious country. 

Let me explain to you these parables about the steep ascents, 
the fire, the water, and the great depth. If you have believed the 
words of Jesus and established with him a covenant that you will 
listen to his words and keep his greater commandments, from 
that very moment, eidicr in body or in spirit, you will be travelling 
on this road of the commandments and you will be starting on 
these ascents. If you are willing to climb them so as to confirm 
your covenant with Jesus, then you will see him and receive 
from him what he has promised you, namely, "with me you will 
have delight at the table of the Kingdom" [cp Luke 22:30]. Unless 
you humble yourself, as a servant, before all people, both good 
and bad, you will be unable to climb these ascents, or to complete 
the road by which you are travelling to that country where our 
Lord promised you that you would find delight. Once you turn 
back from your covenant you will fall into the great depth which 
leads down to Sheol; and if you transgress his commandments, 
then you will go to Gehenna, that is, the fire; and if you deny 
him, you will be suffocated, like Iscariot, in the suffocating hidden 
water, that is, die Evil One's teaching. 

3. Rather, listen to what our Lord has said, "The road 
leading to life is narrow" [Matt. 7:14]. So how much more 
narrow is the one which leads to full maturity and outstanding 
glory. Scripture further has said, "Humble yourself, lower than 
everything on earth; for if you have given yourself over to the 
fear of God, then you have given yourself over to all sorts of 


Sample P assages 

trials" [Ben Sira 2- II H llm u, 

other human b^JZ^T^r ^ ,0wer *« all 
^ort while, so that yo, ' COm ^^ thai last, f 0r a 
^ay. Do not brea your c ve n ln * "*' Wh '" ch nevBr l»*» 
trib ^on thatcannot beZS ^^ ^e t0 

Poachers, not so that the strom u Y ° Ur L ° rd and ** 

asce nding ; but for the ike oh r^ he P ' evented ^ 
»** to make such d ^ * *£- T ** ^^ ^ are 
* sick. For th is reason he n o vt^r ^ ^ dther t0 « ^ 
^avel over the f oothil f >f £ a Z '° r C em ^ -ads which 
them and eventually m ^" S " that ^ can travel by ■ 
°** they are strong en uH h Whl ° h » SC ^ <° the height 
>-ve the strength injhem o mi ^ ^ " P """^^ ^ 
with fc steep climb wuhouTntf ^ by * at naiTow ™ad 

or of becoming dlZ2y ^ ^' ? a " ^ l0 *™ «** 
-frfalhngimothatgre " , * "^^icknessands 
f e or the other and ,,?' "^ their balance to one 

that accompanies these side oaths f "^ lhe tribu]at ^ 
^road, peop]e Jike l0 2 & a h » «» as great as it is f or lhe 

"ot go along this narrow ro^t f aSam ^ that * *ey do 
f« «* Let us not, Then t h n " ^ ^ ** ^ * 
delay ourgrowm, up but ieuK P 1 0Ur S,CkneSS and ^atiy 

long as we dawdle on the siSe oTd ^° ng traveL For « 

« -ade barren m our s us" ?* ^ eas ^ng, we 
na,T0W road - will not become Xr, ^ " 0t ^ *** ** J 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
strength" [Heb. 5:14]. You see how the sick and the children 
are not able to climb these ascents. "Brethren, I have not been 
able to speak with you as with people who are in the Spirit; 
instead, I have given you milk to drink since you are but children 
inChrist" [1 Cor. 3:1]. Go on, therefore, to solid food. "When 
I was a child I acted like a child, basing myself on the small 
commandments; when I became an adult I ceased my childish 
mentality" [cp 1 Cor. 13:11], that is, I abandoned the easy side 
roads of the small commandments, "and I became an adult and 
grew fully mature. Imitate me, brethren, just as I have imitated 
Christ [1 Cor. 4: 1 6] and become fully mature". You see how 
he could not, as long as they were young and sick, show them 
how to ascend to that height; instead he showed them these 
small commandments, but once they have grown strong and 
recovered he calls out to them: Come, go on the direct road of 
the great commandments. For the fully mature who are strong 
eat of this food and travel along this highway. 
16*. JOHN the SOLITARY (John of Apamea). 

(a) From his short treatise on prayer. 

God is silence, and in silence he is sung by means of that 
psalmody which is worthy of him. I am not speaking of the 
silence of the tongue, for if someone merely keeps his tongue 
silent, without knowing how to sing in mind and spirit, then he is 
simply unoccupied and he becomes filled with evil thoughts: he 
is just keeping an exterior silence and he does not know how to 
sing in an interior way, seeing that the tongue of his hidden person 
has not yet learnt to stretch itself out even in order to babble. 
You should look on the spiritual infant that is within you in the 
same way as you look on an ordinary child or infant: just as the 
tongue in an infant's mouth is still because it docs not yet know 
speech or the right movements to make for speaking, so it is with 



Sample Passages... 

that interior tongue of the mind: it will be still from all speech 
and from all thought, it will be simply placed there, ready to 
learn the first babblings of spiritual utterance. 

Thus there is a silence of the tongue, there is a silence of 
the whole body, there is the silence of the soul, and there is the 
silence of the mind, and there is the silence of the spirit The 
silence ol the tongue is merely when ids not incited to evil speech' 
the silence ol the entire body is when all its senses are unoccupied 
the silence of the soul is when there are no ugly thoughts bursting 
forth from within it; the silence of the mind is when it is not 
reflecting on any harmful knowledge or wisdom; the silence of 
the spirit is when the mind ceases even from stirrings caused by 
created spntual beings, and all its movements are stirred solely 
by the divine Bern" at the wondrous awe of the silence which 
surrounds this Being. 

(b)The third of John's Three Discourses is on the topic of 
baptism, and opens with a dialogue between Chrysihenes and 
Sotenanus in which Soterianus tries to convince his friend thai 
he should get baptized, even though Chrysthenes can see no 
merit in this. In due course the conversation breaks off and 
John the Solitary provides a discourse on the meaning of baptism' 
it us from this section (ed. Rignell, pp. 20-1) that the following 
extract is taken. 

Again, the mystery of baptism is this: because our human 1 
nature had become spattered by every kind of impurity of the 
passions and of the demons. Thus, up to the time when someone 
comes to baptism it is as though the nature of his soul was 
commingled and soiled by these impurities; accordingly Christ 
provided baptism to be like a furnace, so that, just as objects are 
refined and purified in fire and air, so by means of Fire and the 
living Spirit, souls might be purified from every working of the 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
devil Fortius reason, John names Christ's baptism 'fire', saying 
■'■He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in the Fire" [Matt. 
3:11], since, like fire, it refines the souls of human beings and 
purifies them from the error and rust of sins. 

For just as objects enter the fire and leave behind there the 
waste and rust that is on them, and emerge cleased ot every 
impurity, so too the baptism of Christ has drawn near to the 
human race, and cleansed and purified it of all the impurity that 
leads to corruption. 

We might also say this: Why is it said of John that he 
baptized in water, but of our Lord that he baptized with Fire and 
the Spirit You know that water is also a cleansing agent, but 
not completely so: for what is cleansed in water is still subject to 
corruption, whereas objects which do not become corrupted have 
been purified in fire. Now there are also cases where things ' 
aeain get corrupted by impurity even after they have been puniied 
by fire - as is the case with iron when it is associated with soil, 
resulting in rusting. 

Again when water cleanses others, it is unable to escape 
from impurity over a long period; for since it has a nature that is 
receptive of impurity and so can be made impure, it may end up 
in impurity. But fire does away with impurity and remains as it 
was Furthermore, water does not destroy impurity, but separates 
it; fire, however, does not behave like that, for it completely 
destroys the impurity. 

For this reason the mystery of John's baptism was described 
as baptizing in water alone, since his baptism did not ell ect purity 
of soul, nor did it remove the impurity of sins from the soul; nor 
again do those baptized by him receive the incorruptible image. 
Christ's baptism, on the other hand, has provided us with 
invincible armour against every kind of rebellious power. In the 



Sample Passages 

was not called 'of fire and Srriri?' S ° n hlS ba P" sm 

corrupted in the p) ace of error ,. ™ ,lr< - J ,lvm S ic <--d and were 
hidden fi re and L ., °' '"° n r ' ,he d '™e agency, by meansof 

™<h an abundance f ho v ^V*"" "'"'"^ " nd *"*»■ 
™mb of bap.isn, s h , ? , y ° Ur rcs P te "*nl souk i„ fe 

^e inn^on *"" iS ' he ^™,ng of ,„e mamicr „ f „„ 

empty oneself of ,he Da si T'ffT'""^^^^ 
afterwards such a p ™„ P has °h „ k ° Ve ° f Praise ' T1 » 
<* mind, in h u m ni and" J ranee b "" y °' ™ Sli ^ *« 
awareness, in joy at ,„ e hone of u, ' '" Se ™" y and "a*" 

^ w, Ml is g00d y i tit ; h „; s c:r k f i ;'r o)c " TOm 

For ii is by these ihinU ,h,. I i ""' 0t human W "gl 

bangs .o follow dllri this life R„r ^ '"" i ' i hUma ° 

"ring a person „ far M i umin ^ j^ » <- — dmenu 

has done battle and overcome aU .he evil NoWonccsomM »= 


Brief outline of Syr, Lit. 
the "New Person' : no longer is he a servant subject to a law, but 
a beloved son who is liberated from everything that belongs to 
this world. 


(a) Verse Homily on Genesis 22. Two (related) anonymous 
verse homilies on this topic survive, and the later of the two is 
remarkable for its presentation of Sarah (who receives no mention 
in Gen 22) as the true heroine of the episode: not only is she 
portrayed as beins aware of God's command to Abraham, and 
as sharing in her husband's immense faith in, and love of, God, 
but she undergoes a second testing when Abraham and Isaac 
returned home: 

Once they had arrived and reached home, Abraham said 
to his son, 

"My son, please stay back for a little, while I go in and 
return to your mother. 

I will see how she receives me; I will spy out her mind and 
her thought". 

The old man returned and entered in peace. Sarah rose 
up to receive him; 

she brought in a bowl to wash his feet, and she began to 
speak as follows, 

"Welcome, blessed old man, husband who has loved God; 
welcome, happy man, who has sacrificed my only child 
on the pyre; 

welcome, o slaughterer, who did not spare the body of my 
only child. 

Did he weep when he was bound, or groan as he died? 

He was eagerly looking out for me, but I was not there to 





r. ' 






Sample Passages... 
come to his side; 

'here t od:^ r t: WandC ™ S "-^™™, ai ,s, ,,,,,,«, 

r: God whorayo " ""*"■ •**« —***- ' 

» - 1: ':: c p ^ e ? under oa,h by g °* •<** ™ * J 

on his" ^ Ms b "»> »<• «• up. and d,e bond, were 
"" d ,,e asked '« see yoi, on the p yre - 

'ron, y ;-ea„ea s ,, ( , tadlhespectI<)rau , r , lc . dw 
cnnd,; y ::;::^^. i ^*.na.p 1 a C e wl ,e r e myonly : 

wa Sh : n t l ' miSh,Seelhep,a «'> IWs -^.he s uew,, crehe 
sme]| ™d bringbackalilUeoi . hisl)]oodiobecom ^^ to 

1 had s °me of his hair to mil in , n i • 
and when grief overcame m I I L? ^ "*** my d ° theS ' 
some of his garments so tZ t , ° VCr my eyes - 1 had 

aujrenng .sorrow overcame 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
me. I gained relief through gazing upon them. I had wished I 
could see his pyre and the place where his bones were burnt, and 
could bring a little of his ashes, to gaze on them always and bc 

As she stood there, her heart mourning, her mind and 
thought intent, greatly upset with emotion, her mind dazed as 
she grieved, the child came in, returning safe and sound. Sarah 
arose to receive him, she embraced him and kissed him amidst 
tears, and she began to address him as follows: "Welcome, my 
son, my beloved; welcome, child of my vows; welcome, o dead 
one who has come back to life". 

The child began to speak, saying as follows, "A son does 
not last for ever, nor do wealth and possessions, but God endures 
for ever for whosoever performs his will. But for the voice which 
called out, 'Abraham, hold off from the child' I would yesterday < 
have died and my bones would have been consumed by fire". 

Then Sarah began to repay, with utterances of thanksgiving, 
the Good God who had brought back her only child: "I give 
thanks to God who has given you to me a second time; I do 
obeisance to that voice which delivered you, my son, from the 
knife. I praise him who saved you from burning on the pyre. 
Henceforth, my son, it will not be 'Sarah's son' that people will 
call you, but 'child of the pyre', an 'offering which died and was 
resurrected'. And to you be glory, O God, for all passes away, 
but you endure". 

(b) The dialogue poems (soghyatha) follow a fairly 

regular pattern and consist of three elements: a short introduction, 
an extended dialogue between two characters, speaking in 
alternating verses, and a brief conclusion. The dialogue itself 
often has an alphabetic acrostic. The following is the opening 
of the dialogue between Cain and Abel, based on Genesis 4: as 





Sample Passages... 

often in these soghyatha, the dialogue takes as if, .,,,,- 
single verse in the biblicil i,v, „ , 7 ' tmg po,nla 

thus; in this ca*::^ P 'r ^ 7^°^ 
"Had you done well Z 'f^ 4 ' 7 ' whej e God says to Cain 

b 'Ood would have 1L yot ^ ^^JJ 
below represents verses 1 3-?n nf th, ' fteextraci 

number of Yerses in S^^ ^ * »^ ^ «- 

P^ed you . , wil , ge { my ow ™ ^ « 
» has te righ , 10 c]l00se or rej "f^f <™ h «« - 

^^toS i f J ^ offerines,haiarc ™ dcitisi ™i 
^^«i^ ht o fy „Lr a a^eT d r h h s epiHi J 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

ABEL [Dalaihl You may have the world to yourself, but 

rant me the favour of remaining in it; lay the yoke of your rule 

C on m y neck, but let me have my fill of the life to which I have 



(a) Teaching of Addai. The following extract concerns the 
famous correspondence between king Abgar oi Edessa and 

Abgar wrote a letter and sent it to Christ by the hand ol 
Hannan the archivist. Hannan left Edessa on the 4th March 
and entered Jerusalem on 12th April, a Wednesday There h, 
und Christ in the house of Gamaliel the leader o the Jews, 
and L letter, which was written as follows, was read out bel ore 

"Abgar the Black to Jesus the good physician who has • 
appeared in the reeion of Jerusalem: greetings, my lord! J have 

means of medicines and herbal preparations; instead, by your 
very iterance you give sight to the blind make the lame walk 
2 ive cleansing to lepers, and cause the deal to car. Those 
troubled by spirits and demons, and the tormented, you heal by 
your very word. You even raise the dead. When I heard of 
these great wonders which you are performing, 1 supposed that 
either you are God who have come down from heaven and 
farmed these things, or you are the Son of God who « 
doin* all this. For this reason 1 have wntten to ask you to come 
to me seeing that I reverence you, and heal a particular illness 
Ln C for lhaveiaith in you. I have also heard tat the 
Jews are murmuring against you and persecutmg you a, d th at 
they even want to crucify you, being intent on harming you 
Now I possess a small and charming town, which would suit ice 





I p. 




Sample P assa g os 

r0rbt,th0fusto Jivche re i„ qilicr I 1 

** -ho h,, semyol , (0 "™ e «* nr™. "Go and tcl. y0 „, 

«■ ">e you have had faith nrTibt ^ '" Wi ' h ° U,ha ™? 
^o .see me will „„, have faj ™" Ior '' '* «™,e„ „f meiT| , M 

« rae who will have faith I m a " " ' S " u,se «">» *> »l 
*« I shonld come to you fte matte? W " aty0U wrolc - **« 
»«■ now reaehed an end, ^ *" '"*''* ' "" s ™ *« 

*»'«• OneelhaCeLceSon r aS '; end,0m >' Fa *« 
m >'ft^iple S , who will heal ^ da," ' "',' w,i '™1y „„ neor 
™l he will convert everyone wh T "^ *•%«'"«; ^ 

«** Place i„ ,„ e 340s f n ' ^ „ of" , " T^" *"** *■ 

oUowmg extract is taken from M ,, v E f h Sha "" r «■ Ifc 

P;«v,des an imaginative reclT?, ,'' Wtee ^ na ™» 

Martha and , hc Mobed ^TrT" "' Wha was Mid »l 

""errogatingher. ( z °™str,an official) who W J 

ThechieiMobedstirioH, • 

m deriaion, "I am ,*£,? "^^"^edMarthareplid 
hWened ,„ be , herc fa^^J"'' =« «". Those l„„ 
"I bem their heads when in v d ,hf 1' M ° ted blustetl 

1 82 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

j- question I was asked". 

The Mobed then said, "What did I ask you, and what reply 
did you give?". Martha said, "Your honour asked 'What are 
you?', and I replied "Uma woman as you can see"'. 

%1 asked you what is your religion", said the Mobed. The 
darious Martha replied, "I am a Christian, as my clothing 
indicates" The Mobed went on, 'Tell me the truth, are you the 
(jauahter of that crazy Posi who went out of his mind and opposed 
the kins, with the result that he was put to an evil death.' lo 
this the Messed girl replied, "Humanly speaking, I am his daughter, 
but also by faith 1 am the daughter of the Posi who is wise m his 
God and sane in the firm stand he took on behalf of the King ol 
Rings, the King of truth, the Posi who yesterday acquired 
everlasting life by means of his dying for his God. f only God^ 
:; would hold me worthy to be a true daughter of this blessed Posi, 
who is now with the saints in light and eternal rest, while I am 
still among sinners in this world of sorrows". 

The Mobed then said, "Listen to me, and I will advise you 
what is your best course: the king of kings is merciful and he 
does not desire anyone's death, but in his goodness he wishes all 
his friends to become fellow-religionists of his, and so be 
honoured by him. So it was in the case of your father: because 
theking liked him. he honoured him and gave him advancement; 
but your father acted foolishly and said things which were quite 
out of place, whereupon the king of kings urged him not to be 
stubborn, but to no effect. This was the reason why he was put 
to death. And now in your case, do not act stubbornly as your 
father did, but do the will of Shapur, king of kings and lord of all 
regions. As a result you will be greatly honoured, and whatever 
you ask for, your request will be granted by the king . 

The glorious Martha replied, "May king Shapur live, may 


Sam ple Passages 

compass,™ redound, „ h T™" hy " is child ™. ">°i 

'"ends'bu, /Lt ^'L ! ^TV '° *" h ' S brefc »^ ; 

which yousaidreyfl^u .?? me " ^ """^ 

'he dregs of the hand™ d „f r h T' " "^ hmdnl * 

-y .ren Sie „UK„,o ^ ,„ ° /r "h?"' I" 2 "'"- WhjsM 
"".iWabusclikemy a r " ,' a - «ded l „he M e„ 

«■ ' Wi «e like hire J™^"^ * 

The Mobnd ealri "t 
»Weh you Chris f's L "*"" °'' "' e hard "e«' of hean 
Furthermore, uo o d em ," V Pe "<" C ^ "' ** 
^oheliious man ^p^'™ '" S P™S 'S likely ,o come fron, , 

be held guilty ore G„d r ° f SS ' *"""* *° ,hal > *" « 
you, I am Ukiug> " , °°" " W hav '"e *>„c my hes, ,„ warR * 

-er 1 o 1 here 1 igil; l fc";Xrao7 OU J n0rdCrl0b ™«°"1 

excellent gods who care for the world" 

^ves^S M ; n t; y ti'' Youha , vesaidy ™ r ^-' 

mention to the true state of afT" 6 a"' "" d ™ ■"**« - 

Otherwise you have boh heard d' rS a ^ tecriW ' ; 
Profitable and which hamZ , ,. " Which exh or. a .ion is -' 

heaven, which lea so fet " Jc^ '^ « ^ K ^»™ "' 
and which engenders death" ' Wh ' Ch P rovitl «life, 

TheMobedwenton "Tie**.*. 
and obstinate following vonrnu "* and d ° not be slnhb ™ 

Instead, seeing thaTyo^l? ^^ ^ " eve <^. 
acta Sy o U H ke g omd ^^ZZ^T P ^ "^ 
n °' die: you are a younl £ g ,° "^ andy0U ^allliveaad 
husband and get nJried hfv * ^ PreUy 0ne " fin d a 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
The wise Martha replied, "If a virgin is betrothed to a man, 
does the natural law command that someone else should come 
along, attack her fiance, and snatch away this girl who has already 
been betrothed? Or does it say that such a virgin should give 
herself up to marry a man to whom she is not betrothed?" 

"No", answered the Mobed. The betrothed of Christ, 

Martha, then said, "So how can your authority order me to marry 
a man to whom 1 am not betrothed, seeing that 1 am already 
betrothed to someone else?" 

To which the Mobed said, "Are you really betrothed, then?" 
| And the blessed Martha replied, "I am in truth betrothed". "To 
whom?", asked the Mobed. "Is your honour not aware of him?", 
said the glorious Martha. "Where is he?", asked the Mobed. 
Wise in our Lord, she replied, "He has set out on a long journey, 
on business, but he is close by and is on the point of coming 
back". "What is his name?", inquired the Mobed. "Jesus", 
replied the blessed Martha. 

Still not understanding, the Mobed went on, "What country 
has he gone to? In which city is he now?" The splendid 
Martha replied, "He has gone off to heaven, and he is now in 

Jerusalem on high". 

At this point the Mobed realized that she was speaking of 
our Lord Jesus Christ, whereupon he exclaimed, "Did I not say 
at the very beginning that this was a stubborn people, not open 
to persuasion? I will spatter you with blood from head to toe, 
and then your fiance can come along to find you turned into dust 
and rubbish: let him many you then". 

The courageous Martha replied, "He will indeed come in 
glory, riding on "the chariot of the clouds, accompanied by the 
angels and powers of heaven, and all that is appropriate for his 


Sample Passages,. 

Sot'be^e^r fr0 7 "» dl ' S " ** b " 

garment of righieo Usn « °i l"*' and d °^ to i.l 

will place on Lrl„ e " ri I a , """^ ? gl ° ri ° US * k 
their heads he will 1, a g SM1 f ret y°™s grace, wbjj 

•toding glory He w ,1 3 , 1 ™ Spimd0l,r ' thal is * I 
™otoheave„ ly b ri d CSCh a,r ' bnn8i " 6to 

orders for the impudent eid • , ,H 7 , g- ' fan8 lhen »"4 
to be taken outside he" tv an f ° f M lm P udent ^er 

herratherhadbeen k] l, ed "'"""^^^vcy^wte 

NaraJLtrZ^^ £" A £* ™ "»""«« <™ re , | 
ofler his son I saac as .^",1" "■* fa " 
magnitude of Abraham', ,„„„, lULn - i2) - Alter slressing He-.. 
Narsai continues " " g ° ny on rece '™g this conunand, 

[■„idde,,Powe,g a ves,re„g,h tolhemin(lol , |lem . dfu] 
bodya^o" eVCrWeakenCdfalh «™ ffla "f™otio„s„ f h„j 

^»^^ss:sr forhis ^™ bHfc l 

in his natural feelings. U "'''' Ze lhe l*" s ™ "*" was mingled 

^^C:^S^ T >-'he,„ V eJ 
'-hose you from ali ^"t^ 3 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
aiyone wanting to imitate your passionate love. Through love 
for his Master did the fervent man carry out his Master's will, 
taking his son to go to the place that had been shown him. The 
Ecbade him make his sacrifice in a distant place, so that he 
feht be observed by the inhabitants of both earth and heaven: 
toihe sight of all creation was God demonstrating his fortitude 
1 1 soul, how resolute he was, showing no weakness in the labour 
of his journey. 

Three days did he travel, silent, without doubt in his mind. 
He did not reveal the secret of his Master's will to his 
household;from everyone did he hide the secret between him 
and his Lord, not even revealing to Sarah the preparations he 
had in mind. He kept the secret between his Lord and himsell 
hidden, so that the genuineness of his love might be assured for 
the Lord who had chosen him. His Lord's command was weighty 
upon him above all other, hut he made ready his own will in 
accordance with his Lord's: by that will his soul's emotions were 
held fast, while he was looking to the outcome at the end of his 

The three days' course of his journey came to an end, and 
raising up his eyes he beheld the place, whereat he rejoiced: for 
with bodily eyes God showed him the place of his son's sacrifice, 
while in his mind God revealed the type of what was to come, 
for on that symbolic site Christ was to become a sacrifice, and 
God foretold him, before these things took place, by means ol 
the symbol of the sacrifice, since Isaac's sacrifice was a symbol 
. of that of Christ. Most appropriate it was that the one sacrifice 
should resemble the other. The Creator's power made similar 
love's intent, so that those who hear these words may not show 
doubt at what was carried out. 

Such was Abraham's mind on this three-day journey, so 
that the one sacrifice might prove a witness to the other, the 




Sample Passages... 

symbol to feretfity. Abraham directed his m i„d to this in J 
Ins ,0, found res, a. the site of lh e sacrifice tha iU„ 
tad -shownum. On this sacrificial site he brought to per fall 

wood, bound his son, drew out the knife - and with the knife 

tZT ? "S BM ' V ° iCe " M hi ™ "•* ehe klht 
m hts beloved one: 'Abram, Abram!', did the spirit 

: v r; ,uvi,hhisbh ) od^edts ;i b t:::r;: 

mankind does not escape me. 

Jhave revealed to you, Abram, by means of this sacrifice 

huntanttv may travel to mee, hope of death's annulment 

so thtf I " ,iS f " ir ! haVe """^ alTiMrs - ask ™ f« » orifice 
Abr h „ n ' ~"? '° hUn,ani ' i ' m > hidto will: in y« 

understand, and in your own wisdom make men wise Do J 

ntagme that . have rejected your sacrifice as impl ect see 

have provtded you with the means ,„ ca, Ty onfmy wiU J 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

(a) In no. 109 of his verse homilies Jacob treats the same 
subject of Abraham's ordeal and the sacrifice of Isaac, but in a 
.much more extended way; the following two excerpts are taken 
from pp.73-77, and pp.99-101 of vol.IV of Bedjan's edition of 
Jacob's homilies. 

[...] And when the third day arrived - the day that belongs 
to the Son - and the journey, M of symbols of the Only-Begotten, 
had reached its end, 

Abraham looked up and saw the mountain towards which 
She was travelling, whereupon the sign of the Son indicated to 
him 'Thus far, old man'. 

Once the journey to the site of slaughter had been trodden , 
out, along all its milestones, where the only resting place along it 
was the site of the whole offering, then the symbol indicated to 
him, 'Come, ascend to me, for here I am; this is the mountain 
upon which salvation for the world shall lake place. 

Come, ascend, and behold the live victim set out upon the 
: ; pyre, the sacrifice that is slain by the knife, but does not die. 

Come, I will show you the day of the Son [John 8:56] by 
means of hints, and I will indicate to you concerning the slaughter 
of the Only-Begotten. Approach me and behold the type of true 
things to come;examine me closely and you will have encountered 
the exact truth. Parables are set out here: come and depict them 
yourself, and bring down with you the great image for the Son 
of God. This is the goal of your journey, o man; now enter into 
rest.Come to me, and do not pass by like some stranger; it is to 
this harbour that you should steer your ship, o sailor full ol 
symbols, for here is stored the cargo of treasures by which you 



Sample Passages... 

will be enriched. Come, o painter, a „d taIte llp AtdMne J 

nd Mb chorcepain, bring ou, a portrait ^ Sm £*£ 

un me site ot Lhe crucifixion. Where Sinn fW^ r 
wood to crucify the Son, there the S y m llt^~ 
up- In he place where the hands of the Son were ZZll 
nails, there too the bonds were offered up to W Wh , > 

s>gna,„„d I-elde,, d '°: h ° r f „r™"; S " ™* * 
pitched.Had il not been il„K i,,,i? r amp was 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
« of the mountains'- Had he no. seen some sign offering ^ome 
»t on what aereement did he turn aside to that specific phu.e? 
See yonr'sonononeof the mountains matlshal.,elly0p e 

Z it is evident that God told him This is the mountam ft 
hinted to him in a hidden way that .1 was on Golgotta that he 
Slrineelsaae,sothatthesymholmightbe performed on 

the mountain of the crucifixion. 

f The valiant priest was all ready for the whole sacrifice; he 
fetched out his hand, took the knife ready tor the slaught er he 
hashed his mind in the sprinkled blood that he ,was tc > pom J 
there In his mind he placed the corpse beside himse I, without 
t ™w His thoughts ran ahead and sacrificed the boy belo.e 

2 ctu 1 act: in his mind Isaac was already slain without leehng 
tarAndwhenhiswillhadperfonnedhispanwithootninchm , 

d he had shed the blood of his only-begotten as though m 

el y . and when the enure type had been brought to completion 

K child of barren parents, and the mighty portrait was ready 

To t stLa°witb all 2s colour,, and when the depiction of the 

Mvsteries of Christ had been completed, with only the Wood 

Ton Wgh to bring down death, - a voice bridled his hand as it 
7Z to ca'rry out the slaughter, a double — £*ri 
hand from descending: two times was the voice raised and he 

the neck of the boy, receiving the blade from Sarah s son, 
prevent his being struck. 

By means of two utterances, emitted one after the other 
only just did the old man's hand fall short ol slaughter. Two 
1 -ators came to urge him to hold back his hand, for be wo^d 
not listen to one petitioner alone: he was so eager to slay that two 
had lo grab hoUof him - and then he desisted. Mediation had 


Sample Passages... 

been made: he stood there and held back his hand from his 
beloved The Father called out to him, through the ar 17^ 
spoke with him, 'Do not stretch out your hand again tJ.eC 
do not touch him. You have travelled alon* the oath of £ 
7^^htuptothe S ,au g hter;donotpr^^i^ 
directs of death, for you have no power to do so. sZu 
wffl not come through Isaac by your shedding his blood- S 

Sd U TnI°w rd IT thC hClpIeSS b ° y; m * «* ™- 
descend The world's captivity will not be rescued by means of 

ta | fee 1 e blood; why then should you sacrifice Isaac when 
will not effect salvation? Be patient, for it is the Kingdom sow 
Son who will deliver his own ' . 

. Abr ^am rejoiced at the day of the Son [John 8-56] 
which he saw mhisuwn son. 

Hidden mysteries were expounded in the sacrifice of his son [...]. 

(b) The sixth of Jacob's Prose Homilies (turgame) is on 
he Resurrection, and most remarkably, use has been made of 
the opening sections in the Church of the East's Hud a at th 
^tr CUOn - T1 ~UstakenfromthemMdi: 

21. In order to act as witnesses to his resorrection he did 
not send hts triends to his enemies, lest on, of hosZ .3 
words would be despised, since they would be suppo ed „ b 
prejndtced: Caiaphas would uo. listeu to Cephas HaL , w 0l , 
not be persuaded by lohannan. This is "the ea on why 
mamfested his resurrection to the executioners, since thelemen 
who hud crucified him spoke of him in amazement in the nmsZ 
those pe„p le who had handed him over to PilaJT" 
For the company of the crucifiers and the executioners turn d 
out to be apostlea of the resurrection of Christ, and the 3 


Brief outline of Syr, Lit. 
were readily accepted since they had been in alliance with the 
crucifiers, and had not been friends of the man crucihed. 

22 All our Lord's enemies were gathered secretly with 
them to learn from them what they had seen at the tomb ol the 

had seen, warning one another lest anyone else hear o it apart 
from those who were party to the secret, guarding it so that 
outsiders would not become aware of it. 

By these means the resurrection turned out to be luminously 
apparent to both enemies and friends, and Christ's rising from 
th dead became firmly known to the crucifiers as well a to the 
disciples - so thathis friends might rejoice, wh,le the heart of his 
enemies would be shattered. 

23 The cloud of grief which yesterday, with all its storm 

of sufferings, had caused the disciples to flee, today batters hard 

ntcruciiierswithitswintryblasts. The seasons have been 

reversed with the result that today for the disciples thee is a 
bri-htclearskyfullofjoys^hileforthecruciliers there is gloomy 

winter full of grief. The wheel that on Friday had been immersed 

£ so as to bring down the Slain One to Sheol, today has 

yoked to it life, and the resurrection causes ,t to turn, so that it 

raises up the Living One from the tomb to heaven. 


(a) In several places in the course of his writings on 
chnstology Philoxenus compares the action of the Holy Spinl 
a [he Inctrnation with the same Spirit's action in the Euchanstic 
Mystenes. The extract below is from the Three memre on the 
Trinity and the Incarnation (Tractatus ires, p.122). 

Concerning how the Word became flesh we will add a 
further demonstration, taken from something performed daily 


I ' 

Sample Passages... 

amongst us, namely the Sacred Mysteries. 

The ordinary species of bread and wine are. according to 

custom, placed upon the holy altar, but once the Spirit has 

descended upon them - just as he also came at the Annunciation 

upon the Virgin - he makes the two of them the Body and Blood 

of him who became innominate. Just as there the Spirit bv 

giving body to the Word, showed forth a human body, so here 

he makes the bread and the wine the Body and Blood of the 

Word, ,n order that they may be able to effect in us all those 

things which his own body effected. For there too [during 

Christ s time on earth] everyone who approached his body in 

1 aith received from it strength for whatever was required But 

not even here in the case of the Mysteries can we say. if we are 

asked, by what means the bread becomes the Body and the wine 

the Blood; rather, wg simply acknowledge that this is the case 

preserving silence about the ; how'. 

If someone should ask ns to investigate the matter' 
scientifically, all he will hear from us is that these matters are 
beyond our reach; how they take place is something revealed 
only to God the Creator. For our part, faith concerning them 
needs to prevail - and faith too is something given by grace 
enabling us to lay hold of, by its means, the entire tradition of the 
Mysteries which we have received. But knowledge about them 
as I have just said, is something above nature, and so it should be 
reserved for the Creator, seeing that it is highly appropriate and 
lilting that knowledge of such matters as these should be accorded 
to him to whom they belong. 

(b) Commentary on the Prologue of John #23. At several 
points in his commentary Philoxenus complains that the translators 
ol the Peshitta New Testament did not follow the Greek with 
sufficient exactitude, thus inadvertently giving scope to 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

Woxenus; "^ ~ ^scripts are divided 

(1985), pp.236-44). 

The Apostle Paul ,00 spoke well, *£. I "0> *«£ 

k« trond-ued from the Greek to interpret, thus giving e - 

who translated tiomi m anolhei , 

the angel, each of whom spoke first oi a oecom g 


B those who transited supposed that it was noteleeant m are appropriate for each ^ particular lan uag 

out what are the utterances and ™J^^JJ^ and 

, • c ■ ■* -,r,ri wprp sDoken through the ptopnets auu 

coXiou or adjustment by means of human knowiedge. 

Among me Greeks, each one of these words and terms, 
I whi chte have mentioned as having been spoken b, the 


.. ■ 

Sample Passages... 

Evangelists and (he Apostle, is putexactly as we have ,-,« „ , 

And h 7 S m ° bcm " 1S as Allows- [Matt 1-181 

And because the book's nf(h« w Q ^ t'viau. I . xaj. 

their own lon =ue „ L a , t r *"*"' WOT lUlered » 

isseedowninGr kw,^, "'f St0indi,,eI °™**.. 

wore in lerp ,e C d ; v LT 1 em ' I nM * U,we lhin = s w « 
■ha. persons l™™ y °" e " "" nSS Which "><="* Wong to 

comes from fc^T " "° l l " n °'' ** Kachi "8 **< 

and to be rebnked C K »L P ' ' S "° l °" ly reprehensiMe 
companion of Ihe M a ^i "nt an d '2,"^ ^"^ *"* * 
themselves removed from d,e ^ Miu, ' ch , ala '" s " P=°ple who 

r e„ by ood,a„dm n zt irxir„ h . ai had , bcm 

•hem by others ,ha, were cS^bT^f"^ 
tmprovemeni Havi™ f.,ii s,acrca h y them to be an 

Ncstorios, t leade w, 1" mM ""I ""^ Th '" i °"' 4 
-**»* £ tj Z ^ 5! °— hippers. also 

con,ra Iyi „ 1 e rpr e lal , olU0 1 r he r PU "' e ' """ £aVe a 

[■■■] Likewise with the na«icm ;„ »u t 
which mads, Tfc., „, SKJSS^S?' * 6 ?*"" 
Father -"on behalf of everyone^ 22 [H "S° £ 

altered this and wrote "anarr f mm r i» j L« e °.z.yj. they 

unde,,„od and read h as fo„ows: ^^^d 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
the Word tabernacled in it". 

By inclining towards views such as these, those who 
orkinally translated the Scnptures into Syriac erred in many things 
XtheVintenttonanyorthroughignoranee. ^was^ 
in matters which teach concerning the economy m the iltsh, bu 
various other things that are written concerning other opics. It 
Tlo this reason that we have now taken the trouble to have 
Tholy books of the New Testament interpreted anew from 
Greek into Syriac. 


(a) The first extract, from the opening of an unpublished 
rnemra on Abel and Cain, probably belongs to the earliest of the 

I was pondering on creation and reading the account of 
t generations when there met me that pair of brothers, one ol 
whom killed the other. 

I decided to wait and see, and to listen to the court ease 
between the two: what was the cause of the strife, and why 
Sg was resorted to, for one brother was killing the other ,n 
th valley, in the midst of the wilderness; there was no one to 
rescue the one slain nor to judge the deceitful one. ScnpU re 
Csed to me the action, but hid from me the cause o the 
killing- The matter is exalted, and our understanding * too feeble 
to explain it. [...] 

Let the person who is filled with love approach, listen 
and give praise, but if anyone should give birth to dispute, let 
him iot remain lest he be put to shame. Scripture, like a teach , 
be-ins by opening the door to knowledge, enuemg us with its 
knowledge to expound for ourselves its parables. 

The love of learning has invited me to relate to you their 


Sample Passages... 

S S h Umm h° '^ B °° k " a "*"". » '"a. by i. the Evil 
One may be condemned. Abel was shepherdm- sheen wh 
Cam was working „„ , hc ,„,„_ Md f fi ^l* *>« 
possessions lliey offered on -,s ,„ „fr S , ngs ot "» 

Abel brough, from his heep a hmh * * "* JUSt ° 0i 
while Cain offered fromZ ground 7T1 r' H 
resembled himself Al™. TJ , , " f 0f 8 r «s thai 

before God in the wilderness God rejected h,M^ eS 

numri , 1 P a f ° f a P a S an Poet (unidentified) where a 
young man laments his lost vicinity- • 

01 weight, I heard a young man singing one day "Would 2 
someone would pull me down and rehnfiH m„ \, , 
virgin once again !" d mC ' and make me ■ 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
have been lost, it is still possible to attain to a better kind of 
Linity through repentance and the right use of the gift ot free 
will Human beings can come to birth twice, without any dispute: 
Once in the natural womb, the other time as a result ol i ree will. 
Forthose who have corrupted or destroyed their natural virginity, 
it is possible to come and acknowledge a virginity that comes 
from the will. This virginity of the will is greater than that ot 
nature, and it is the true seal for the virginity that exists in 

Grant me, O Lord, virginity in a firm mind and instead 
. of natural virginity may I acquire virginity that comes from tree 

Lord, may 1 not destroy both kinds, lest I perish as a 
result of them both. 

Since 1 have already corrupted the body's virginity, may 
I I become a virgin in the mind. 

Blessed is he who has caused to be born from us the 
medicine and healing for our wound, and who, as a result of our 
willing it, has renewed for us another virginity, without any 

Blessed is he who has appointed for us repentance in 
order to renew us, and who has shown us that, as a result of our 
free will, both death and life are in our hands . 

. (c) Extended descriptions, taken from the natural world, 
are a characteristic of the author of several poems under Isaac s 
name The present excerpt, concerning an eagle and a hsn, is 
from Homily 41 (ed. Bedjan, p.503-4). The eagle, over- 
ambhious, ends up by being drowned by the fish it tries to catch; 
so too the recluse whom Isaac addresses, is in danger oi 
attempting more in the ascetic life than he has the strength for. 


Sample Passages 

(W subsequently g e s onrnn 

2£i ** fish, an J th " Z r" lh ! MgJe M 

«* A* as hum anity which £^«™ - agle as Chris, J 

I will dcnir, fi avvay t0 he aven) 

. : - A a fea:rS^f* r e Vcap , ngllpabove|hc 
>»ay .is .1 leapi: the easle ' *„'.,,* ° tecend "^ whisk i 

■ ■*<*< coincide witt ^ f "*>«<i ho W , in its fc ™ 

t saw how the fi*h ~ 

water - where-. • a . ,lsh had Put on ihn , 

wjicreas the ea«le* h->n o. • F tnc armour nf 

wmd, tle nad stripped off the »«« 

J ine armour of the 

-»«c same thine wtTlhan. 

f ■« the fi sh ^ nudn P r fri t0 y ° U ' * y °° do « control 
downing it, 6miCin ^ th ^ eagle, and it ended up by 

_ . The extract below fa «Wf <***•»*»'>. 

beared the streets of rubbish ' " "* end ° f *e year He 
™ * ^ -desrnen in £*K2 S ^ ** K 

20Q a ' S £etS - He ^oputa 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
chest in front of his official residence with a slit in its lid and a 
notice to the effect that, if anyone wanted to inform him of 
anything and could not openly do so, he should put this in writing 
and insert this in the chest, without having any fear. In this way 
he learnt of all sorts of things, for many people put in messages. 
He used to take his seat regularly every Friday at the martyrion 
of St John the Baptist and St Addai the Apostle, and there he 
would settle legal cases without any expenses being involved. 
The oppressed took strength against their oppressors, as did those 
plundered against those who had plundered their belongings: 
they brought their cases before him, and he gave judgement. 
Cases which were more than fifty years old and had never been 
investigated were brought before him and were settled. He built 
the covered walk next to the Gate of the Arches, and he began 
on the building of the public baths: this had been planned many, 
years earlier to be built adjoining the grain warehouse. He gave 
instructions that on the eve of Sundays tradesmen should hang 
up in their stalls five lighted lamps arranged in the form of a 


The following is the opening and ending of Sergius' 
Introduction to Aristotle's Categories, addressed to Theodore 
(who is known from another source to have been bishop of Karkh 
Juddan). It illustrates very well the importance attached to 
Aristotle's logical works for every field of learning, including 
biblical studies; at the same time it sheds some incidental light 
on how Sergius went about his work of translating Galen. If the 
book on the causes of the universe, which he mentions that he 
wrote, is the same work as the surviving treatise with that title 
under his name, then it was little more than a slightly adapted 
translation of a work by Alexander of Aphrodisias (3rd centuiy 


Sample Passages... 

The treatise composed by Sergius the Archiatros 
concerning the purpose of the Categories of Aristotle the Stagirite 
by family and philosopher by profession. 

There is a saying uttered by the Ancients, my brother 
Theodore, that the bird called the stork [Syriac: hurba] rejoices 
and becomes strong when itseparates itself from cultivated -round 
and moves off to the wilderness [Syriac: hurba] to live in its 
former lair until the time when its life comes to an end In die 
same : way. it seems to me, no one can understand the opinions of 
the Ancients or enter into the mysteries of the knowledge 
contained in their writings unless he has separated himself from 
the entire world and its dealings, and distanced himself from the 
body as well - not in space, but in mind - leavin* behind him all 
Us delights. Only then will the mind be emptied in order to turn 
towards its own being, and gaze at its self, seeing clearly the 
things thai have been written by the Ancients, and judging well 
winch have been said correctly, and which have not been set 
down in this way. That is, once there is nothing present from the 
things which oppose a person's swift progress as a result of the 
body s inclinations which hinder him in the course of such a journey. 
When we were translating certain works of the doctor Galen 
from Greek into Syriac, I used to translate, while you would 
write it down after me, correcting the Syriac wording ,n 
accordance with the requirements of the idiom of this IanguaJ 
And when you saw the fine divisions of speech that are to be 
found m the writings of this man, along with the definitions and 
demonstrations which occur so frequently and excellently in it 
you asked me "From where did this man receive the source and 
beginning of his education? Did he acquire such a fullness of 
knowledge from himself, or from some other writer before his time?" 
I replied to the question which you, in your love of learning 
had put: "The ultimate source and beginning of all education 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
L Aristotle This does not just apply to Galen and his fellow 
lotmsta to all the writers and renowned philosophers who 
feter him. For up to one time when nature had broug 
MS man into the world tnhabited by humans, a die ££ o 
Silosophy and education were extended hke roots scat erou 
Dispersed chaotically and ignorantly among all sorts 
iors But this man alone, hke a wise doctor, assembled aU 
Scattered writings and put them together in a crahsn^ » 
„d intelligent way, seasoning them wuh the unrque and complete 
^i«n ceoThis teaching. For in the case of those who approach 

E "t „,s diligently, he uproots and removes Horn dw souls 
^ X°sscsongno^„ce, whether thcsebesermusnrles s„. 

n k like the ease of people who make statues: they cast each 
nan f the .m^ge separately, and only then do they put hem 

2 statue. So too did AristoUe fit and f"g*£* £~ 
„,,k nf nhilosophy in the place required by its natuie, loi e in c 
^1 mem in ai, hi writings a complete and wondrous portrait 
I of the knowledge of all things that come into being. 

When you heard this from me, my brother Theodore, you 
immediately wanted to know what was the purpose of this man s 
^fand what was theorder otitis writings, and thesequence 
!S I attempted to tell you a little ot what you had 
mom old and now you have asked me to commit to wn ing 
romd™ng'ofwliatlrelated.oyouorally. In view ot the exa . d 
namre of the subject I excused myself from this, saying hat 
had L dy com oscd a brief treatise [addressed ,0 Ph.lotheos 

for anyone who encountered it to make them aware, as fo. as is 

os hie, of the man's views. But you were not persm* y 

this- instead you lovingly urged me to make - not a ge. eial 

work conofming the Sag'e's entire teaching on the cause ol the 


Sample Passages... 

universe, such "as I have already done - but individual brief 

introductions to each of his writings in turn. Therefore, sincel 

am unable to escape from your request, before I commence on 

this, I urge you and all who may come across this work, not to 

turn at once, after just a single reading, to unpleasant charges 

and complaints, but to persevere reading and taking it in, once 

twice, three times, and even four times over, should the subject 

matter require it. If even so something appears obscure, then he 

should not neglect to go to someone who can instruct and show 

him what he does not know; in this way he will save himself 

from the conlusion that exists in the mind of those who do not 

understand what they are reading; and he will, furthermore 

restrain himself from laying accusations and complaints - which 

are of no help at all to the author of the words. 

[...] Without alfihis [i.e. Aristotle's works on logic] neither 
can die meaning of writings on medicine be grasped, nor can the 
opinions o( the philosophers be known, nor indeed the true sense 
of the Scriptures in which the hope of our salvation is 
revealed -unless a person receive divine power as a result of the 
exalted nature of his way of life, with the result that he has no 
need ol human training. As far as human power is concerned 
however, there can be no other course or path to all the areas of 
knowledge except by way of training in logic. 


The following is the opening of Daniel's Commentary 
covering the first verse of Psalm 1 ; it provides a good example 
of the combination of historical and spiritual exegesis to be 
found in this Commentary. 

Those who are desirous of the blessings granted by the 
Holy Spirit should proffer the ear of their soul to listen to what 
has been granted through the divine psalmist David. Kecpins 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
away from the things in which the Holy Spirit takes no pleasure, 
let them approach the spiritual occupation which draws God s 
will to them. For any approach to the divine blessings involves 
complete separation from the works of wickedness: just as 
participation in the divine light effects in us a distancing from the 
darkness of sin, so too, by means of desire for the heavenly 
blessings we distance ourselves from any associat.on with the 
'woes' that apply to the wicked. Now it is impossible tor anyone 
to enjoy the blessings unless he escapes from any occupation to 
which 'woes' are attached - this occupation to which 'woe' is 
attached being the wicked way of life of evil-doers. This is why 
the blessed David - who knew of the divine blessings through 
the revelation of the Holy Spirit which he received in his soul, 
and who was aware, too, of the punishments which had come 
upon evil-doers by means of just judgements - made a beginning 
of his psalmody with the blessed state of the upright. 

Now wc should enquire into the reason why he sang this 
first psalm, so that in this way it may prove easy for us to look 
fully at the aim of its interpretation. 

It is said by those who are acquainted with the Hebrew 
language that David uttered it with reference to Saul when he 
went to raise Samuel bv witchcraft [1 Sam. 281, that is, when 
the kins of Israel abandoned the path of uprightness and walked 
in the path of the wicked, in other words, in the path that leads to 
the darkness of the error of demons: this was when he descended 
from the throne of righteousness and sat upon the seat ol the 
woman who worked witchcraft in 'Ado'ir. 

For this reason the blessed David was stirred, uttering this 
song of praise in flight, in response to the change that had come 
over Saul. Without any hesitation he openly cried out to the 
king who had been called by him 'anointed of the Lord', singing 


Sample Passages... 

"Blessed is the man who has not walked in the path of the wicked 
and has not stood with the mind of sinners, and has not sat upon' 
the seat of scorners" [Ps.l:l] - in contrast to Saul, who had 
abandoned the path of uprightness, having previously spumed 
nullified and abandoned the company of the prophets who speak 
in the Spirit; a man who believed in the demons who rose up 
fromthe ground and prophesied to him what was going to happen 

Maybe you will object and say, "It was not the demons 
but Samuel that the woman said that she had seen" Listen 
wise and discerning reader, look carefully at what the woman 
•said when Saul asked her "What have you seen?" [1 Sam 28- 13]- 
she said "I have seen gods ascending from the earth" - that is 
demons who were considered by her to be gods, and whom she 
worshipped; these sfcre in the habit of appearing to her when 
she used incantations and thus they deceived those who erred 
ai ter her. Then subsequently she said, "An old man has come 
up, wrapped m a cloak" [1 Sam.28: 14J, to which Saul said "It 
n Samuel", for the demon which had come up and deceived 
baul had changed appearances and taken on that of the prophet 
in order to deceive the sinful king. 

It was on seeing and hearing this hateful deed that the 
blessed David accorded blessing to the man who had not walked 
m the path of the wicked. 

Now when we ascend towards the height of the spiritual 
understanding [theoria] of this first "Blessed", we find the divine 
David looking in prophecy to the first-formed human bein- 
Adam existed in a realm exalted above woes when he was in 
Paradise, but once he had turned his footsteps away from that 
luminous path which travels amidst the luminous plants of, he left for the outer fence of Paradise on a pathless 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
course of wandering, having become a disciple of the serpent, 
through Eve's counsel - just as Saul became a disciple to witchcraft 
that leads astray by means of the woman's teaching. So that 
first human being left the Garden of Life and Incorruptibility. 
Now Saul, who was also called k Adam' by David, fell from 
kingship over that holy people after he had been initiated into 

These two spiritual meanings, therefore, have we taken 
from the beginning of this psalm. But let us expend a little sweat 
on these first three phrases. 

Every human being is divided up separately into body, soul 
and mind, and his occupation is likewise separated out as having 
three goals: when we attribute the "walking' to the soul, the 
'standing' to the mind, and the 'seat' to the body, then we discover 
that the blessed David has uttered these verses in a sage way: 
The words "Blessed is the man who has not walked in the path 
of the wicked" is fulfilled and completed when the feet of the 
soul are restrained from walking in the dark path of the workers 
of evil. The wise Qohelet, too, realizing that 'walking' applies 
to the soul, used to say "The sight of the eyes is preferable to the 
walking about of the soul" [Eccles. 6:9], 

Now a person who 'stands in the mind of sinners' is 
someone who has stopped from 'walking' and who has reached 
the point of action. And the person who 'sits on the seat of 
scorners' is someone who ends up in an occupation of despair, 
having alighted upon the occupation of evil-doers that is filled 
with scorn. 


Explanation of the Ascension, II.4. According to the 
understanding of the nature of the universe current among 
scholars of the School of Nisibis the 'firmament' which 


Sample Passages... 

separates earth (and sky) from heaven constituted a solid barrier, 
and so this could provide a practical problem for the Ascension; 
Cyrus here offers his solution. 

If someone comes back, arguing against us, "How, pray, 
did our Lord manage to enter heaven when he was not seen to 
have rent it asunder or opened it?", our reply is this. 

It took place in a divine manner, just as when he entered 
the upper chamber through closed doors [John 20:19]. 
Nevertheless, in order that his mind may be set at rest and so that 
he will not doubt something that took place miraculously, we 
will adduce for him an insignificant demonstration. Just as water 
is taken up in the roots of olives and other trees and then circulates 
in their young branches and clusters, as though through ducts, 
even though there are no hollows or channels bored in them, in 
a similar way, by an ineffable miracle, Christ entered heaven 
without rending it. Or again, take the case of us human beings 
in summer time: when we take a drink of water or of wine, our 
body bursts out with sweat, even though our flesh is not scratched 
and our skin has not been pierced. How very much easier was 
it for the mighty power of Christ to enter within the firmament 
of heaven without splitting or rending it - thanks to the divine 
power with which he was clothed. 34*. JOHN OF EPHESUS. 

The following episode is taken from his Lives of the Eastern 
Saints (PO 17, p. 250- 54); occurred in the monastery near 
Amid where John himself was living in the 530s. The extract 
provides a good example of John's conversational style and gives 
some interesting sidelights on life in a monastic community at 
that time. 

One day an old man, poor and a stranger, stayed at the 
monastery where I was. When he had been questioned 
concerning the faith and had made a satisfactory reply - he had 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
come in during Vespers, right at the end of the service - in 
accordance with the custom they have they pressed him to sit at 
the table of the Elders, that is, with the Abbot. He, however, on 
hearing this, fell on his face and begged them saying, "Forgive 
me, fathers, for the sake of Christ: I am but a poor man and not 
worthy of this". Now the man had sparse hair and a clipped 
beard. Many people, as well as the abbot, got up in the effort to 
make him sit with them, but he said, keeping his eyes on the 
ground, "Do me a favour, my lord, and allow me to sit at one of 
the other tables". When the abbot saw his firm resolve, he said, 
"Allow him to do as he pleases". In this way he was persuaded 
to get up from the ground and, as if by the grace of God, he 
made straight for the table at which I was sitting, even though it 
was right in the middle, and we were sitting between other tables. 
We all got up, received die old man gladly and then took our 
seats again. When the dish of cooked food was set down, the 
head of the table asked him to say the blessing, but he again 
begged, saying "Forgive me". Despite his being pressed a great 
deal, he would not accept the invitation, and we were astonished 
by the resistance put up by the old man, as a result of his humility. 

Now every time the blessed man reached out wiUi his spoon 
he furtively raised his eyes up, little by little, and his lips would 
move, as though he was making a small sign. In this way every 
time a morsel of food entered his mouth, this sign of thanksgiving 
would ascend from his heart, manifesting itself by the muttering 
of his lips and the movement of his eyes. 

When the order was given by the abbot for the cup of 
wine mixed with water to go round - it was the custom that this 
should take place three times a week as well as on Sundays - the 
steward came round and the old man received a cup as did 
everyone else. Now the wine wiis mixed with cold water and 
was circulated quickly, one cupful only a person, and then it was 


' .' 

Sample Passages... 

collected; everyone said a blessing and once he had drunk the 
wine he placed the cup in its place. But this blessed man took 
just a sip at a time, as if the wine was so hot that one could not 
drink it. This was how he drank, and he could not be induced to 
drink it all at once, instead sipping continuously; rather, he divided 
the cupful into as many sips as it pleased him to offer up praise 
for, and even though the cup was very small, lie divided it up 
into more than a hundred sips. On observing this the abbot 
remarked, "Perhaps the old man prefers to drink it with warm 
water, and that is the reason why he is afraid, because of the 
cold". Accordingly he addressed him, "Would you like us to 
bring you some warm water, father?" "No", he replied, "forgive 
me: whether it is cold or warm, my habit is to drink a little at a 
time". <? 

As we were seated there we asked the old man, "Whence 
does your reverence come?" But he, as though someone fully 
occupied with eating, silently bent down his head all the lower 
and kept silent. This happened a second and a third time, then 
finally he made this reply: "Forgive me, fathers, I am hungry 
and need to eat". Whereupon we took the blessed man's hint 
and left him alone. 

When we had finished eating, the old man's gaze was still 
directed downwards, though he kept secretly making signs 
heavenwards. Then, as we spoke to him once, twice and three 
times, asking where he had come from, all of a sudden he burst 
into tears, and he could not contain himself any longer. He bent 
down his face to his knees and covered his head: even so he 
only just managed to constrain himself and to stop sobbing. And 
so we got up from the table, the old man standing in the midst 
with his head covered. 

When we had given praise for the meal, the old man 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
washed, as was the custom, and a rug was arranged for him in 
the chapel. On seeing this, however, he begged, saying, "Because 
I am weak and exhausted I cannot rise for the night service. For 
the sake of God, please put my bedding outside, in some comer". 
Accordingly, in order that he might not in actual fact be disturbed 
by the Office, they put his bedding where he asked. Now because 
there were some blessed monks who were eager to investigate 
such things, they watched the old man to discover his true 
purpose. He, however, immediately fell into bed, and it was as 
though lie had already gone to sleep. When there was no longer 
a sound from anyone and all had gone off to bed, the blessed 
man turned over on his bedding, face downwards, and knell 
there weeping. This lasted from the evening until the semandron 
sounded for the night service, he not realizing that anyone was 
aware of him - though those watching him had got tired and 
dropped ofi" to sleep two or three times. This is how they found 
the holy man - until the semandron sounded, at which he covered 
himself over like an infirm person and lay there until the end of 
the Office. Then the same thing happened until the morning, 
though not in the same way as the evening before, for he was on 
his guard against those who were looking after the books(?) at 
the Office, and those who were learning the Psalms. 

In the morning he asked to say farewell and leave, but the 
abbot would not let him, saying, "Rest for five days, father, and 
bless us; and then you can go". The old man was thus prevented 
from leaving. He went out into the garden to lake a stroll, and 
when I learnt about him from those who had been watching 
him, I went out after him. He saw me and stopped. I entered 
into conversation with him and said, "Why, father, did you hide 
from us what sort of person you are? What monastery are you 
from?" He immediately burst into tears and kept silent. 
However I said to him, "If you are a Christian and a servant of 


I'- 1 




Sample Passages... 
Christ I will not let you depart unless you tell me why you wept 
both last night and again now. I make bold, if you are God's 
servant, to adjure you by him whom you serve: for the sake of 
the salvation of my soul, inform me about this and about your 
way of life". 

The blessed man was grieved and annoyed: 'There was 
no need for any such adjuration", he said. "I put you under 
oath so that I might profit, whereas you will not loose anything", 
I replied. The old man imposed on me an oath that not a word 
of what he was going to say should pass my lips until three years 
had passed. He Lhen said, "I have by now spent thirty years in 
this discipleship, my son, and during these years God will not 
judge me for having opened my mouth over sustenance that 
comes from God's gity without extending my thoughts to give 
praise for his graciousness". 


The excerpt, taken from Book XII, chapter 7, tells how 
the Bible came to be translated into the language of the Huns. 

In the land of the Huns about twenty or more years ago 
some people translated some books into the native language. 
The circumstances of this - which the Lord brought about - 1 will 
relate as I heard it from certain truthful men, namely John of 
Resh'aina, who was in the monastery founded by Isho'koni close 
to Amid, and Thomas the tanner. These two had both been 
taken into captivity when Kawad carried away captives fifty years 
ago or more; once they had reached Persian territory they were 
sold again to the Huns, so they had to travel beyond the Caspian 
Gates and they spent more than thirty years in their country, 
marrying and begetting children there. At the end of this time 
they returned, and told us the sotry with their own mouths. It 
was as follows: 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
After the arrival of captives whom the Huns had taken 
from Roman territory, while they themselves had been in their 
country for thirty-four years, an angel appeared to a man named 
Kardutsat, bishop of the region of Arran, and said to him - so 
the bishop told them 

-, "Take three pious priests and go out into the plain and 
there receive from me a message sent to you from the Lord of 
spirits, for I am the guardian of the captives who have left Roman 
territory to go to the land of foreign peoples, and who have offered 
up their prayer to God". When this Kardutsat - whose name, 
translated into Greek, means Theokletos [i.e. called by God] - 
had zealously gone out to the plain together with three priests, 
and called upon God, the angel said to him, "Come, set off to 
the land of foreign peoples, and give warning to the children of 
the dead; ordain priests for them, give them the Mysteries arid' 
strengthen them. I am with you and will deal graciously with 
yon there: you shall perform signs there among the foreign 
peoples, and you will find all that is needed for your ministry". 

Four others travelled with them, and in a country where 
no peace is to be found, these seven priests found lodging every 
evening, and seven loaves of bread and a jar of water. They did 
not enter by way of the Caspian Gates, but were guided over the 
mountains. On reaching the place, they related everything to 
the captives, and many were baptized: they also made converts 
among the Huns. They were there for a full seven years, and 
while there they translated the Scriptures into the language of 
the Huns. 


Ahudemmeh's work On the Composition of Man combines 
elements from both Greek and Persian tradition. In this 
passage the Syriac word for 'anger' may in fact reflect 


Sample Passages... 

the wider semantic range of Greek thymos, which has the sense 
of 'strong feeling, spiritedness' etc., as well as 'anger'. (The 
passage is from PO 3, pp. 103-4). 

The soul has two faculties, of reason and of life. The 
faculty of life has two operative agents, which themselves exist 
in the faculty, anger and desire. Now desire stands between two 
other operative agents, namely moderation and excess. The 
bad aspect of desire is excess, while the good aspectis moderation. 
Anger, too, stands between fear and valour. This latter operative 
agent that is brought about by the faculty of anger is good, but if 
the operative agent is defeated in the face of the passions, and is 
fearful of death, then it is bad. 

The faculty of reason has other faculties which manifest 
themsleves and are fulfilled in their operation: mind (mad 'a), 
thought (hushaba), intellect (hawna) and conception (tar'ita). 
Thought is situated between desire and anger; mind between 
intellect and thought; intellect between calm and agitation; 
concept (re'yana) between obedience and disobedience. Each 
one of them is a helper and assistant to its mate that is connected 
with the operation of the act - an operation which brings out into 
the open the faculties that are hidden in the soul. Desire and 
anger stir us to all actions - either so that we should draw near to 
them, or that we should keep away from them. Each action is 
situated between two agencies: desire brings us close, while 
anger keeps us at a distance. 

39*. ANONYMOUS, Cave of Treasures. 

Nimrod receives only a bare mention in Genesis [Gen. 10:8- 
12], while Noah's son Yonton (who plays an important role in 
several later works) is not to be found there at all and the Cave 
of Treasures is the earliest work in which he is mentioned. The 
present passage purports to describe the origin of various 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Zoroastrian practices. 

In the days of the mighty warrior Nimrod fire was seen 
coming up out of the earth. Nimrod went to see this: he 
worshipped the fire and established priests to minister there and 
throw incense into the fire. It was from this time that the Persians 
began to worship fire, a practice which they continue up to this 
day. King Sisan discovered a spring of water in Derogin; he 
placed beside it a white horse tfiat he had made and those who 
bathed there worshipped that horse. 

Nimrod went to Yoqdora, belonging to Nod, and on 
reaching the lake of TRS he found there Noah's son Yonton. 
Having gone down and bathed in the lake he did obeisance to 
Yonton. Yonton said to him, 'Do you, who are a king, do 
obeisance to me?' Nimrod replied, 'It was because of you that 
I came down here'. He stayed with him for three years, during 
which Yonton instructed Nimrod in wisdom and the Book of 
Revelation. He told him, 'Do not return again to me'. 

Having come up from the east he began making use of this 
Revelation, and many were amazed at him. Ardashir the priest 
who was ministering to the fire which rose up out of the earth, 
on seeing Nimrod practicing these exalted arts, begged the demon 
who used to appear in the vicinity of the fire to instruct him in 
Nimrod's wisdom. Now it is the habit of demons to destroy 
those who approach them by means of sin; accordingly the 
demon told the priest, 'A person cannot become a priest or a 
Magian unless he first sleeps with his mother and sister'. The 
priest did as he was told, and from then on priests, Magians and 
Persians took their mothers, sisters and daughters in marriage. 

(a) In the course of the christological controversies of the 
fifth and sixth centuries each side tried to point out the illogicality 





: I 

Sample Passages... 

of the other side's position, and sometimes this took the form of 
putting a set of questions to one's opponents that were aimed at 
reducing him to the choice of either an absurdity, or having to | 
agree with the questioner's position. The sort of process involved 
is illustrated by Babai in this first excerpt. Both this and the second - 
passage also illustrate how the two sides had very different 
understandings of the key terms 'nature' and 'qnoma'. For Babai 
the former is generic and close in sense of Greek 'ousia', 
'essence', 'being', whereas for the Syrian Orthodox it was 
understood as particular and close in sense to 'hypostasis'. Greek 
'hypostasis' is translated into Syriac as 'qnoma', but 'qnoma' 
happens to have a different semantic range from hypostasis, and ■ 
for Babai it has more the sense of 'set of individual characteristics' 
(hence his frequent christological formulation 'two natures and 
their qnome'). The dilemma below comes from Babai's Against 
those who say that, asfthe body and soul are one qnoma, so God 
the Word and the Man are one qnoma (Babai objected to this 
analogy since it represented a necessary, and not a voluntary, 
union). (Ed. Vaschalde, pp. 293-4). 

Let them tell us now, did Christ, this one qnoma, acquire 
any renewal at the resurrection when he became the first-fruit of 
those that sleep [Col. 1:18]? If they deny that this is the case, 
men (at the incarnation] he took an immortal body and an inerrant 
soul, which makes a falsehood of the statements that "He became 
like us in everything, apart from sin" [Heb. 4:15], and "the 
physical, and then the spiritual" [I Cor. 15:46]. 

But if they say that he was renewed - as indeed he was - 
then let them tell us: Was his divinity renewed along with his 
humanity hypostatically, in one qnoma, just as all human beings 
acquire renewal in each person's entire qnoma? 

At this point, one of two things will happen with them: 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
rvmrrh's confession of him as the iirst-lruu man m* 


Mien into our net, dividing [into two qnome] Hon whom they 
say is not thus to be divided up. 

Our own opinion is that the qnoma of his humanity - the 
Second Adam - was renewed by his divinity. 

( b)Babaihereexplain SS omeofthere,sonswhytheClu^h 


Union [i.e. of the two natures in Christ], ed. vascna i 

The flesh [of the incarnate Word], then, is of the same 

same nature as his Father. Bee 

born in united lashion. 

Likewise, because the appellation 'Christ' is an indicator 

his divinity and of his ^^^^^1 simply 

blessed Mary gave birth to Christ LMatt j. 

'God', without reference to the union, nor just Man , w 


Sample Passages... 

God the Word being clothed in him. Again, it is just as we say 
that a woman has given birth to a human being, and we do not 
say that she has given birth to a soul, or that she has given birth 
to a sou] that has become enfleshed, or that she has given birth 
to a body. 


On several occasions in his Book of Perfection Sahdona 
sets before his readers the examples of people who have devoted 
their life to Christ, and among these is Shirin, a remarkable woman 
whom he knew in his childhood and youth, and to whom he 
owed his own monastic vocation. (Book of Perfection I in 64 
69-79). " ' 

64. But why should I just talk about men? Let us examine 
the weak nature of the frafi female sex to see whether the beauty of 
the virtuous life is not also revealed to us in the godlike women who 
have trampled on sin and Satan [cp Gen.3: 15). I myself am ashamed 
to gaze on their valiant deeds when I consider the laxity of us men- 
but it is right that this beauty should be made public - to our greater 
confusion, and to die glory of those women. [...] 

69. Out of all these women let the example of 'just one 
suliice the holy Shirin, blessed among women. Like Jael [Judges 
*24-7], whom God answered, she pulled out desire like a tent- 
peg from the tent of her body, brandished it, and laid low at her 
knees the hidden enemy who fights against the saints: by means 
of visible hardships and hidden prayer she brought down his 
enure valour, knocking his head into the ground. For the Evil 
One is greatly shamed: having first of all vanquished a woman 
and managed to sow his error, he is now himself vanquished by 
women, thanks to Him who was born of a Virgin and who «ave 
strength to women's nature. & 

70. This Shirin was an aged woman whom I myself saw 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
when she was in the region of eighty years old. To tell of all the 
labours she engaged in from her youth up to the final years of 
the course of her life would be a difficult task and would require 
a lengthy book on its own. It is not our intention to do this here: 
rather, we shall just adduce a few examples of the beauty of her 
virtues as a testimony of what we want to say. By way of 
demonstration, for everyone to behold, of complete perfection 
of way of life, we are going to highlight a number of details 
concerning her spiritual beauty in order to corroborate our narrative, 
just as we did previously in die case of the holy men whose own 
beauty of life we brieily highlighted as an incitement to ourselves to 
imitate them. In then cases too it would have required thousands of 
lengthy paragraphs to relate the entire story of they exploits. 

71. Once this woman had set her desire upon imitating 
them, she began to manifest in herself their likeness. The very 
sight of her moved everyone to wonder, and her admirable deeds 
were the cause for praise to God. To such an extent was she 
held in honour and respect by everyone that all the monastic 
abbots of the lime - men of perfection whose glories we have 
told of earlier - considered her as a blessed spiritual mother, 
worthy of heavenly bliss. From afar they would give her greeting, 
entreating her to pray for them, and when once in a while she 
went to see those who lived in the vicinity, so that she too might 
receive blessing from them in accordance with the law of love, 
they would minister to her needs like eager disciples, holding her 
in great respect, for they considered her, who was much honoured 
by God, to be greatly worthy of honour. 

72. Despising the whole world out of love for God and 
considering it as mere refuse, in order to gain Christ [Phil. 3:8] 
she rejected and pushed aside everything else, attaching herself 
totally to him with a love that was without any guile as she lived 
out the perfect life of asceticism in all its rigour. Things that had 



B ! 





Sample Passages 

with ihe goal of perfection acquainted 

enou S h «, soppl, her ,Tn„ C a ","":' *"?"" 1 
d«ire 5 . Each evenin. she s mtwTh ,, SP ° nSe ,0 ils 
made om of oul*« ,n J f herself Wlth a small cake 

«• foo 2 S, a dT/n ° VegelableS ' By ™™ s ° f 

wiuic aii u, 4n he, ftS w ,: shc suppor,ed he '' fi ™<=. 

was hh, off dai„ lies I S^i'ST ""^ «** 

just once a week. * u "^every lour days, or even 

andhi S 7 cltz~: hadchose r neMyonifcofD --' 

and beamy ,h™ oMnteTr' "^ SUrpaSSCd in radj ance 

could behold her n 1 7 ™Pam°ns [Dan. 1:15], For who 

despite the Iwota*'" "f "* '°" S h ° UrS 0f the 0m « 

he* was for f ed b t ;7ce ™h: l S° nCe feC,i " S *** ™ 
■he desires of her own will° Tl ,r P,mS0 aS '° wilhs| a" d 

*- - order ,„ JE2L££ £*%£ 'V" 
upon her in creai -.ctnmVi, ' d l wouId gaze 

perked Jh"L~ m " '" e "" «* «***» 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
in heart-felt prayers intermingled with groans, to such an extent 
that she would spend most nights without any sleep, being 
occupied with continual singing of Psalms and with prayer. 
During the daytime, however, she would divide her time between 
this and reading the Scriptures, the lives of upright men, and 
uplifting works written for the guidance of the monastic life and 
for instruction in true religion. 

76. Only someone who had actually seen her can fully 
know how serene and gentle she was, how pure and full of 
simplicity, how she brimmed over with compassionate love for 
everyone, and how deeply joyous she was to receive strangers 
and to see to their comfort. 

77. Monks and other strangers to the world who shared 
her reverence for our Lord used to come to visit her from all 
over the place, for they held her as a holy spiritual mother. They 
would gather from different places as children coming for lessons 
in sanctity with her, wanting to receive her blessing and to gain 
benefit from her. Shc, for her part, would receive them lovingly 
and would minister diligently to their needs, providing both bodily 
sustenance as well as spiritual food: for while she saw to their 
bodily comfort, she would give joy to their souls at the same 
time, both by her words and by her actions. In this way they 
would depart from her giving thanks to God and carrying with 
them all sorts of beneficial provisions as a result of what they 
had seen and heard. 

78. Women in particular frequented her company, seeing 
that she was someone to whom they .found access easy, in view 
of the status they held in common. They greatly profited from 
her, both from talking with her and from just seeing her; and 
they were drawn to imitate her zealously, in so far as was possible. 
This was something that could be observed in my own blessed 


Sample Passages... 

mother.- set on fire by [he very sieht „ f ,, 
consumed by a zeal for her wav Tvr ? my mMher ™ 
«*•* « far as J* had Z sl7nl „ i Wh ' Ch S " e WMW » 
was a child she would exhor 1 u S<> ' A " d ever si "<* I 

confonned wi,h Shirin s " ™ '" Ch °° Se '° lire » life .ha, 

1 -onld rather die to LTwL J^sf '"" ««»*»« 
'angled in the world like <„ ™ yOU " God f orb,d I . 

•o « this blessed wont , , " 1°\ " $ \ S "° W0Uld b ™8™ 
i" .h^ way she would £j£* Tw 'V* '" ™ r ""« 
n^elf and instil i„ my ,, ca " ^°[ y wt ™an's blessings upon 
Perfection as a result o f « ! , /^'-^o-rfortbclifeo, 

grew stronger every day , tifn "^'"f '"* ™ S ari °<" 
.'-a. S ourceasi,we y ^rr;--^™,ed fro ,„ 

Ill vBlTCflTlrt aw. _ " 

e-eilence ofmdian as(r0 ^ ^ETf ' ribUIe '° "* 

of ^SEtse* rs 5 k ™*^ « *■ £ 

•hemselves have ,„ s y i!™'" * "*« the Gr <* 
Philosopher olsuch renown a mo „ t M OT,nS ! P,M0 lhe &* 
"heTimaeus: "On m^Xrn^f^ heWrites * 
the wise, told Arkitanis- irri iT 5" ' S °'™' "" <*« of 
Egyptian pries, S^ * h ;' d ^ from an 
you Greeks are children a,H e , n fe J? 5 "? '° him - ~° Solon, 
has grown to old ate' Laler hM J " ""' ' ° reek wh ° 
a" babes in your souls-' y„ jo o, h **'"' ' Y °" Gre * « 

™ J-. or any ^^^^T" 1 ^™ 

. 222 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
without a voice"' [Plato. Timaeus 23c]. This quotation shows 
that the Greeks did not even know writing for many generations, 
but "they all died without a voice", that is, in a dumb way, and 
unintelligent. How then do some of them boast that they were 
the first discoverers of the science of mathematics and astronomy? 
Neither is the case! 

At this point I shall refrain from speaking about the science 
of the Indians, who were not even Syrians, or about their exact 
discoveries in the science of astronomy - discoveries which are 
far more skilled than those of the Greeks or Babylonians - and 
the logical method of their calculations and the way of counting 
which surpasses description: I am speaking of the method which 
uses nine signs. Had they been aware of these, the people who 
imagine of themselves that they alone have reached the summit 
of wisdom just because they speak Greek, would perhaps have- 
been persuaded, even though rather late in the day, that there are 
other people who have some knowledge: it is not just the Greeks, 
but also some of the peoples who speak different languages as well. 


The Catholicos Isho'yahb III here rebukes Shem'on, 
metropolitan of Rcvardashir (in Fars) for certain unspecified 

uncanomcal acts of insubordination; since it was the metropolitan 
of Revardashir who consecrated bishops for India, Isho'yahb 
points out that the people of India are also harmed by his actions. 
The passage comes from Letter 1 4. 

Along with this, my God-loving brother, remember this as 
well: if our predecessors had closed the door of the gift of the 
Lord [i.e. episcopal ordination] in the face of your need, in the 
way that you have closed the door of episcopal ordination in the 
face of the many peoples in India, depriving them of the gift of 
God for the sake of advantages that are subject to corruption 


1 1 

Sample Passages 


edne of^fS "? ^ aPPly t0 India ' whlch itches from the 
edge of the boundaries of the kingdom of Persh »< fV !! 
place called QLH a land nf 1 9nn lr as lhe 

to your own region Fa " Yo, r^' bUt * als ° *&>¥ 

*„„„• f iianaing - I am not some fei c TO 

loves virtu? Jri, t ^, aSwell ' S0 P e< >Ple say, a mind that 
and th ecem h Tf,7 T Slre " Slh t0 <"" ari « hl *■ P» 

™,« m ~ . <~onsiaer whence sin took itc 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit, 
i induced by the fear of God. 

(a) From Homily 3 (of the 'First Part'). 

Make your request to God in accordance with his glorious 
bature, then he will hold you in greater honour and will rejoice at 

; you. 

When someone asks a human king for a load of manure, 
» not only will such a person be despised because ol his despicable 
request - seeing that he has accused himself by means of MS own 
ignorance - but he has also offered an insult ui the king by means 
oT his stupid request. Exactly the same applies when someone 
asks God for the things of the body in prayer. 

[f God is slow in answering your request, and you ask but 
do not promptly receive anything, do not be upset, tor you *tm 
not wiser than God. When you remain as you were before, 
without anything happening, it is either because your behaviour 
is not worthy of your request, or because the paths in which 
your heart was travelling were far removed from the aim ol y our 
prayer, or because your interior state is far too childish, when 
compared with the magnitude of the things for which you have 

(b) The following extract is from the fourth of the set of 
Headings on Spiritual knowledge which constitute the third 
chapterof the recently recovered 'Second Part' oi Isaac s works. 

There is a certain divine activation which may accompany 
the pure worship of solitaries. From time to time this 
overshadows the solitary in the stillness of his cell, and a kind ol 
ineffable joy, for reasons of which he is not aware, all oi a sudden 
falls on his heart, clearing it of all its customary thoughts. Certain 


Sample Passages... 

of the Fathers name this moment "the luminous sphere"; another 
calls it "the air of freedom", while yet another speaks of it as "the 
pure natural sphere". It is as though a person is in the New 
World, inebriated with God in every action he undertakes This 
delight and stillness from spiritual warfare may last with some 
people for several days: many have experienced it for six or 
even seven days, after which this gift is withdrawn from them 
and they grow dark. Then, after some days, they discover 1 
again, and arc filled with delight. 

As long as a solitary finds himself in this state of grace he 
should not be subject to any rule of law, or to the Office or to 
the use oi specific prayers or the regular readins of the Bible or 
indeed to any of the canons which have been laid down for created 
beings. This is because thegiftdoes notcomeof his own volition 
But alter leaving that sphere, should he despise the canons that 
are customarily hud dWn for solitaries, then he will be handed 
over to the demons. The only things that exempt him are pressing 
Circumstances beyond his control, or the requirements of an 
illness. This applies even if he becomes like an angel in his way 
of hie. Although this may not take place immediately, it will 
certainly do so after a short while. 

57. DADISHO'. 

In the course of his extensive Commentary on Abba Isaiah's 
Asceticon Dadisho' defends the spiritual exegesis of the Bible as 
practised by a many monastic writers (XI. 1 7- 1 8). 

Having reached the end of the Discourse Abba Isaiah 
wishes to teach us that the entire conduct of solitaries - this bein" 
divtded up mto three distinct parts, the bodily labours, the conduct 
ol the mind, and spiritual contemplation - is depicted in symbol 
m the holy Scriptures in what was done by, and to, various holy 
persons. Here I will set down three of them by way of 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

demonstration, namely the blessed old man Jacob, Moses and 


No one, cither educated or ignorant, will jeer when he 

"sees Abba Isaiah or the solitary Fathers introduce some 
demonstration concerning virtue taken from people mentioned 
in the holy Scriptures, or from affairs of the world; for the 
divine Scriptures were written down for this purpose, and this is 
also why the creation of the world took place; this is indeed the 
purpose of its being governed by providence. Furthermore, our 
very comim- into this world occurred for this same purpose, SO 
that as a result of what we learn from the Scriptures and from 
the natural creation, and from the providential wisdom to be 
: : discovered in them, we may come to know our Creator, give 
him praise, and keep his commandments; for in this way we 
shall gather in advantage from them at the appropriate time. 

Tims in all the outward aspects of Scripture and in the 
entire natural world there lies hidden a spiritual understanding 
which teaches us concerning godliness and virtue. If this were 
not the case, what would we gain from reading the divine 
Scripture when it tells of Lot's two daughters who slept with 
their father [Gen. 19:3 1-381; or of the blessed Jacob, lor whom 
two wives were not enough, so he also had two maidservants m 
addition as concubines [Gen. 30:4, 9] - and even if it was because 
Rachel was prevented from giving birth that she gave him her 
maid Bilhah. what necessity was there for Jacob to take Zilphah. 
Leah's maid, when he had already had four sons from Leah, 
namely Ruben, Simeon, Levi and Judah? 

No it is clear that all these outward actions, which took 
place by providence in connection with these holy men ol old, 
convey a hint of hidden spiritual actions carried out by solitaries 
and holy people in the spiritual way of life. The blessed Paul 


Sample Passages... 

provided an example of such an interpretation in the ease of 
Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac [Gal.4: 22-25 jl 
Similarly, in connection with the creation of the world and ' 
iV! ne economy surroundmg it, there lie hidden potent syml^ 
which point to righteousness and a godly way of life. 

[-] The blessed Theodore the Interpreter. says the following 
mconnec^ with the Psalms of David: "When Ly a u 7j 
ye. by holy people with their appropriate intention, they n 

" ,dn, ; ns J wayfram ° Ur midst - «* *>*y ^n g the holy is 
and the Lord of the angels. Chnst our Lord, close toTfi 

ear that by 'the psalms' appropriate intent.on^he ,s not speakin 

oi h,s own historical exegesis, or the homiletic exeuesis ofZfe 

■ke Basil and John [Chrysostomj - historical exegeSs bei 

People, rather, he des.gnates as 'their appropriate intention" 
the spiritual exegesis of the psalms, something which on ly t s 

rnave set all this down here in order to defend the practice 
he ohtary Facers, and in particular Abba Isaiah, " 
may there by muzzle the mouths of certain stupid exegetes who 
hanks to then- knowledge of the .jargon that Ly hafe leam t 
argon fr at .s totally divorced from any idea of Jod cond 
Wd e saints m contempt when these latter introduce ex Is 
from the Scriptures and from the natural world, and j£ 
t» refer sp.rnually to godliness and righteousness. 

cn.rnrl 8 ' T "^ Abba ISaM ' ta **ordance with his 
custom makes a comparison between what was done i 
connection with the blessed Jacob, his wives, concubines -mS 
c hildren, with this way of Hie of singleness, show" mc e 
fcmgs winch were openly done by Jacob, and occurred m 



Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
connection with Jacob, are also to be understood spiritually in 
connection with this particular way of life. Since Abba Isaiah 
put it all down at length, I will set out the meaning in abbreviated 

[...] 'Jacob went to the house of Laban, took two wives in 
marriage toilins for them for seven years; one had tender eyes, 
and the other was beautiful'. This indicates that, even though 
spiritual knowledge is more desirable and delectable than virtue, 
yet a person will not attain to cither of these unless he has first 
completely fulfilled all the labours and struggles needed for them. 
'Although he loved Rachel, nevertheless she was not given 
Bo him before Leah. Nor did Rachel bear children lor him until 
Leah had given birth to all her children'. This indicates that, 
even if the solitary yearns for the spiritual vision, nevertheless he 
will not attain to it without having first completed all the labours - 
of both the body and the soul. 


The climax of this influential apocalypse describes the 
appearance of the Son of Perdition; concurrently with this the 
Byzantine emperor (whose genealogy has earlier been provided 
with a link with Kush, or Ethiopia) places his crown on top of 
the Cross on Gokotha, whereupon the Cross is raised up to 
heaven After the excerpt below (XIV 1 -6), the author continues 
with a detailed exegesis of Gen.49:17, and suites that the Son ot 
Perdition will enter Jerusalem and take his seat in God's temple, 
'acting as if he were God' - though 'at the Second Coming of 
our Lord from heaven he will be delivered over to the Gehenna 
of fire and to outer darkness' (the author does not disclose how 
much later this will take place). 

1 . Then the Son of Perdition will appear, the False Messiah. 
He will be conceived and born in Chora/.in. brought up m 





is ' 

Sample Passages,.. 

Bethsaida, and will reign in Capernaum. Chorazin will boast of 
him, because he was born Lliere, Bethsaida because he was 
brought up there, and Capernaum because he reigned there. For. 
this reason our Lord applied 'Woe' to the three of them in his 
Gospel, saying "Woe to you, Chorazin, woe to you, Bethsaida, 
and you, Capernaum who was raised up to heaven: you shall be 
brought down to lowest Sheol" [Matt. 1 1 :21, 23]. 

2. The moment the Son of Perdition appears, the king of 
the Greeks will go up and stand on Golgotha, and the holy Cross 
will be placed on that spot where it had been fixed when it bore 
Christ. 3. The king of the Greeks will place his crown on the 
top of the holy Cross, stretch out his two hands towards heaven, 
and hand over the kingdom to God the Father. 4. And the holy 
Cross upon which Christ was crucified will be raised up to heaven, 
together with the royarcrown. For the Cross upon which Christ 
was crucified - it was for the salvation of all people who believe 
in him that he was crucified - is the sign which will be seen prior 
to the Second Coming of our Lord, to the confusion of the 
unbelievers. 5. And the word of the blessed David, when he 
prophesied concerning the end of times, saying "Kush shall hand 
over to God" [Ps.68:3 1], will be fulfilled, for a son of Kushyat, 
daughter of Pil, king of the Kushites, is the person who will 
■'hand over to God': 6. At the moment the holy Cross is raised 
up to heaven and the king of the Greeks yields up his soul to his 
Creator, then all rule, sovereignty and power will be rendered 
void. Then suddenly the Son of Perdition will be revealed. He 
is from the tribe of Dan, according to the prophecy of Jacob, 
who prophesied concerning him saying, "Dan will be a deadly 
snake lying by the road [Gen. 49: 17] that leads to the Kingdom 
of heaven. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

U ) At various places in Ins revised translation of Severus 

Leover te pro„unc,a U on»d^B°fteTe^ jacot) 

IYHWH). Towards the end ol Ihis exienueu u. , 

die Hebrew Bible. 

The scholion i. attached to Severus' Homily 123 (PO -J. 
pp. 194-202). 

By „ y of further expiation I wonld add *e to low,n S . 

cl „ in which !£—«££££ which ,be 

text, placing in the margin, lacing it, Lori , out 
the columns of the scriptural text. 





i' > 

Sample Passages... 

and put them together. This is what he handed down in the Old 
Testament which he left behind, with the result that you can SI 
= n, 11 an yp ,aces/Thus says Adonay the ^:^^ 
^m adjoining ,. us 'Lord', the two being read as it were S 

name, with those who read savino ac i , ' asm ^ 

,u- i laying, as I have ment onrd "Time 

cxegeucal, hterary and to do with matters of canon law to the 
cpniem s Hymns against Heresies (2:6). 

:,; ,s yi: ? f 8 ^ «* bci " ** sstSM 

w t„, Shc was a,Kl wh " "» Shabbataye we e 

will reply veiystraigbtforwaidly and auictlv a *° were ' ' 

■n Ete a w,„, lrora heryoutll :x*sr; 

50 called Slncc Ihey obseryed and h J 

IS-uurday, a, «,, „ Sl , n d ay . They have „£££££ 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

(regions of Galalia and Phrygia. 

She was thus numbered among the clergy in the church of 
lihe Sambatianoi which existed then in the town of Edessa, and 
| being renowned and acclaimed both for chastity and asceticism, 
and for her sharp wittedness and learning, she was also much 
more eloquent in speaking than many of her companions, so 
they elected her to become their bishop, imagining that she was 
in fact a man. In this way she became bishop of the Sambatianoi 
in Edessa, taking her seal on die throne on the bema, as the 
r teacher Mar Ephrem says, preaching before them, and making a 
| mockery of their beards: her true nature did not rebuke her or 
make her feel ashamed. 

The site of their church still survives to this day, and the 
iplace in Edessa is known now as 'iheekklesia of the Sambatianoi' ; 
I, who am telling you these things, know it and have seen it 

Such is the case of this woman, and such is the heresy of 
the Shabbataye, or Sabbath observers to which she belonged. 
You should realize that there are two breakaway sects called 
'Sambatianoi': one belongs to ancient limes, to the days ol the 
Apostles, while the other came later, being the schism resulting 
from the followers of Noetus, who shut the door on sinners who 
repent. These people are now in Galatia. 

So much for Qanisu and the Shabbataye, of whom she 
made a mockery. 

62*. GEORGE, Bishop of the Arab Tribes. 

(a) George's succinct Commentary on the baptismal rite is 
based closely on an anonymous commentary of the early fifth 

The font represents the tomb of Christ, and the water in it, 
the womb that brings forth children who arc spiritual, immortal 



Sample Passages... 

and not subject to corruption, as will happen at the resurrection 
ol the dead. 

The baptism in the font of the person being baptized is a 
re-birth. His being dipped three times is a symbol of the three 
days our Lord spent in (he tomb. The right hand of the priest is 
a .sign of the hidden refashioning of the person being baptized. 

By saying "So and so is baptized", and not "I baptize" 
the priest indicates by his humility that this awesome affair is not 
his, but a gift has been bestowed upon him by grace to administer 
these Mysteries. 

The ascent from die font is a sign of his ascent to heaven 
- like the ascent of our Saviour from the grace to heaven. 

(b) Besides revising the Syriac translations of several books 
Oi Aristotle's Organon (logical works) George also provided an 
introduction ol his own, though based on traditional school 
materials mat go back to sixth-century Alexandria. The followinu 
extracts give a flavour of the work. 

Before the study of every treatise by Aristotle there arc six 
headings which need to be mentioned first. These are: the aim 
ol the work, its usefulness, the reason for its title, the order of 
reading, whether the work is genuinely by the philosopher, and 
the division into chapters. 

[...] Now we also enquire whether a book really has 
Aristotle as author. There are three reasons why writings might 
be falsely under Aristotle's name: firstly, due to two people 
sharing the same name; secondly, as a result of writings having 
the same title; and thirdly, for the purpose of base proli t. Because 
Ptolemy used to give a great deal of money to acquire books by 
Aristotle, for this reason many people had the audacity to write 
under the philosopher's name. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

The present short letter (Letter 38) provides a good 
illustration of the fervour that is typical of his writing. 

I know you, O man valiant in the Lord: you hide your 
treasure and go around begging from a poor man like me. 
Blessed is the person whose treasure lies within him, who is not 
nourished from outside. Blessed is the person whose sun shines 
out from within, thus preventing those who accept only the 
external sun from seeing it - people who cause harm to those 
who accept the interior sun. Blessed is the person whose hearing 
is sealed from those who listen only to what is silly: instead, he 
turns aside to listen for the movements of the fiery beings and 
the sound of their cries of 'Holy' . Blessed is the person whose very 
breath is of the Holy Spirit, the fragrance of whose body is mingled- - 
with him who 'look delight in fragrant scents' [Cant. 4:101. 

Blessed is the person whose soul has been dipped in the 
sweetness of his God, and whose bones have thereby acquired 
Length Who is there to expound this blessed state? Not even 
the spiritual can do so. Blessed is the person to whom is revealed 
the place to which he is travelling, who bums with desire for it. 
Blessed is the person who recognizes the place of awareness, 
and has realized that there are none who have knowledge there: 
he has understood a great mystery. Blessed is the person who 
has gained permission to enter that place, and who has henceforth 
made into his companions those whom he finds there. Blessed 
is the person who has been stunned by the beauty ol these things, 
and who has himself become ignorant, having forgotten him who 
fills with error those who go astray. 

How wonderful are your hidden mysteries, O our God. 
Who could ever believe them? My heart is transported ai the 
recollection of them; the limbs of my body are cut oil at their 



Sample Passages. 
' catch I um, but he 1S no. to be caught. Having mv fill ve T 

does no, JX^S y my ViS " alizin8 him) ' he 

look- . I " hC COmcS out lVom Within; when I 

he is eveiy where. ' so t0 ° 

radiant, Light which is descnbldl o™ ^ ?* JS mUM - 

67*. JOSEPH HA2ZAYA (Joseph the Seer). 

Prayers of various lengths are quite frequently to be found 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
interspersed among the writings of many monastic writers. The 
following, written in artistic prose, is a meditative prayer for use 
before Communion. 

To you be praise, First-born of Being, exalted and full of 
awe, for by the sacrifice of your body you have effected salvation 
for the world. 

O Christ, Son from the holy Father, to you do I pray at 
this time; of you, Lord, do I ask your will and beseech your 
compassion, that my whole person may be made holy through 
your grace, and thai the Enemy's constraint upon me may be 
rendered ineffective. 

Purify my understanding in your compassion, so that my 
hands may stretch out in purity to receive your holy and fearful ^ 
Body and Blood. 

Cleanse my hidden mind with the hyssop of your grace, 
for 1 draw near to the Holy of Holies of your Mystereis. 

Wash from me all understanding Chat belongs to the flesh, 
and may an understanding that belongs to your Spirit be mingled 
within my soul. 

Cause to reside in me a faith that beholds your Mysteries, 
so that I may behold your sacrifice as you are, and not as I am. 

Create eyes in me, so that I may see with your eyes, for I 
cannot see with my own eyes. 

May my mind travel inwards towards the hiddenness of 
your sacrifice, just as you have travelled out into the open and 
been conjoined to your Mysteries. 

At this moment may 1 be totally forgetful oi' myself, and 
remain utterly unmindful of my own person. 

Mayevery bodily image be wiped away from my mind's 


Sample Passages... 

eye, and may you alone be depicted before the eye of my mind. 
And now, when your Spirit descends from heaven upon 
your Mysteries, may I ascend in spirit from earth to heaven 

At dm time when your power is mingled in with the bread 
may my life be commingled with your life of the spirit. 

At this moment when the wine is changed and becomes ; 
of your Io d v; may ^ ^'^ "" '"**"** ^ * ecom ™* 

At this time when your Lamb is lying slain on the altar 
may sin cease and be utterly removed from all my limbs. 

At this moment when your Body is being offered as a 

TZ ct 2 your e,; T l l0 ° be a hoJy sacrif1ce to y°» 4 

ohm who sent you and may my prayer ascend before you 
together with the prayer of the priest. 

Create in mc a pure heart, so that your holy power mav 
«A Mb. mo. S o mat, through the power of your SpiS, 

may inhale your salvation. ' 

Fashion in me, Lord, eyes within my eyes, so that with 
new eyes 1 may contemplate your dtvine sacrifice. 

Lord, may I not see the outward aspect of what I am now 
to rece, ve, but hold me worthy to see and recognize, as did S I 
the fisherman, who was called blessed for his faith. 

Lord, may I taste not just the bread in your Body or just 
*e cup in your Blood: give me the faith so that I may see you 
Body, and not the bread, and dnnk your living Blood from the cup 

Grant me that spiritual palate which is able to taste your 



Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Blood, and not the wine. 

Wipe out from mc all the signs of my bodily nature, and 
mark in me the signs of your spiritual nature. 

May I draw near to you, and you alone be seen by me; 
Lay I not perceive whoever may be next to me, but may I walk 
in the house of prayer as though in heaven, and may I receive 
you who live in the highest heaven. 

You made me into a spiritual being when you gave me 
rebirth from the baptismal water; make me a spiritual being now 
too, as I draw near to receive you. 

It is a matter of great awe, Lord, that your Body and your 
Blood, O Christ our Saviour, should be consumed and drunk with 
that same mouth which receives ordinary natural food and dnnk. 

Lord, ynu did not give to the spiritual beings what I am 
receiving now: stir up within me at tins time, Lord, the sense ol 
wonder at your Cross; fill me with a fervour ol faith at this 
moment, so that my thoughts may be inflamed with the lire ol 
your love; and may my eyes become for you rivulets ol water to 
wash all my limbs: may your hidden love he infused into my 
thoughts, so that my hidden thoughts may flow lor you with 
tears and groans. 

May my body be sanctified by you, may my soukshine out 
for you May my body be purified by you of every image and 
form here on earth, and may my thoughts be cleansed by you, 
and may my limbs be sanctified by you: may my understanding 
shine out, and may my mind be illumined by you. May my 
person become a holy temple for you; may I become aware in 
my whole being of your majesty. 

May I become a womb for you in secret: ^ihen do you 
come and dwell in me by night and I will receive you openly, 




Sample Passages... 

I Shall n„d dd>ghl ,„ yol „. Body a|ld your B|ood y^ -^ m ™ 

and J£N£ S32 ,0 me y, r l,ic,denncss in ihe B - 

™„ i • J may rece,ve your Body in love for 

you, and m desire for you may I drink your Blood 

With the fulfilment of the sacrifice of mural F f in 

QcJl^Jff ° Pen,y SigD a11 my ,imbs wi[h ^ -sign of your 

thr h !f? !-T iVe y ° U ' ' 10t im ° lhe *»«* which belong to 
^ body S limbs, but^nto the womb of my mind soSS 
may he conceived there, as in the womb of the 2 n a Y 

mat are pleasing to your will. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
May I be intermingled with you, and with your love and 
your longing, on that day when your majesty will shine out, and 
when the words find fulfilment that say "To you shall every knee 
bow, and it is you that every tongnejn heaven and on earth and 
beneath the earth shall confess" fcp Phil. 2:10].. 

And along with the spiritual beings and all who have loved 
your revelation in spirit, may 1 confess you. praise you. exalt 
you, in that Kingdom which does not ever dissolve or pass away, 
now and always. 

69*. ANONYMOUS, Zuqnin Chronicle (Pseudo-Dionysius of 
Tel Mahre). 

For the final years he covered (i.e. up to AD 775) the 
author was an eye witness, and his account of the economic and 
social troubles of the early Abbasid period is p a r l i c u 1 a r 1 y "*■ 
valuable; this was a time when many Christians in north 
Mesopotamia were driven by economic and social pressures to 
convert to Islam. The following passage, clearly intended as a 
warning to others, tells of one case where a deacon converts of 
his own free will - but with dire consequences. 

It happened that I was in Edessa on some business there, 
and while I was there some people came and said in our presence, 
relating it in front of everyone, thai a certain deacon from the 
valley of Edessa had slid down into this chasm and pit of 
destruction. The man having the intention of renouncing 
Christianity, all the notables and people of the village took hold 
of him and used much persuasion on him, but he was unmoved. 
They besought him to turn back from his present evil, amidst 
heart-felt tears, as well as offering gifts as they impressed on him 
above all lhe rank of sacred priesthood that he held, but he was 
adamant, and so they left him. 

He then went off and took refuge with one of the Arabs 



J ll: 


Sample Passages... 

who was there, and asked to become a Muslim at his hands. 
The Arab used no compulsion, and even urged him not to do 
this lest he should repent either today or tomorrow and return 
back to the Christian faith, since this would incur great 
punishments. But he said, "Even if I have to die, I will not turn 
back from your faith, for God has shown me that I should come 
to it". The Arab then said, "Have you renounced Christ?", and 
he said "Yes"; next he said 'And have your renounced baptism?", 
and he replied "I do renounce it". He went on, "Have you 
renounced the Cross, the Eucharist, and everything that the 
Christians acknowledge?" He replied, "I renounce them". 
Besides this, the son of the Accuser uttered words of insult, 
without any compulsion from the Arab. 

Having made him renounce in this way, the Arab next 
ordered him, saying, "Do^ou acknowledge that Muhammad is 
the messenger (rasula) of God, and that his book came down 
from heaven upon him?". He replied, "I acknowledge this". 
The Arab went on, "Do you acknowledge that 'Isa is the Word 
and Spirit of God, and a prophet, but not God?" And he said, 

Having made him renounce Christianity of his own free 
will - for none of these people was driven by force from others 
to renounce his faith, only by the Accuser, his father; though 
indeed many of them renounced Christianity for no reason at all. 

Then the Arab told him, "Undo your belt, and pray Lowards 
the south". Now God did not hold back from washing the feet 
of the betrayer [Judas], or slop him partaking in the Mystical 
Supper, but specifically gave him dipped and de-consecrated 
bread, separate from the oilier apostles, thus showing that he 
was the traitor; in like manner God acted with this wretched 
man: even more than the Spirit - whom he had put on at baptism 



Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
- had been despised by him. was he himself despised by the 
Holy Spirit, who made him a fearful example for others. In the 
same way we too set him as a mirror for later generations, so 
that all the faithful who read this book may see what happened 
to the wretch, and so take care of the gift they have received, lest 
the same happen to them too. 

Having undone his belt and knell to pray, his body shook: 
and as he bent down, there went forth from his mouth what 
looked like a beautiful while dove, which was raised up to heaven. 
When the wretch saw this, he gave a terrible wail, like a woman, 
and it shook all those present. "Alas for me, alas for me, alas 
for me", he uttered; "What has happened to me?" Once they 
had quietened him down from his cries, he related in the presence 
of all what he had seen and what had happened to him. 
Furthermore he related openly before everyone, with many tears. 
People who had heard this from his very mouth related all this to 
me. Because I was not very involved in the concerns of this 
affair at the time, I have forgotten the man's name, and his 
father's, and that of his village. 


Book of Scholia IV.7. Theodore's historical approach to 
literary criticism of the Bible is very much in the tradition of 
Theodore of Mopsucstia. In ihe case of the Psalms, Theodore 
bar Koni is making use of the East Syriac Psalm titles which 
provide the supposed historical setting for each psalm. 

Why are the pericopes of the prophets not set out in 
chronological order? For some pericopes are recorded at an 
earlier point, even though they were composed later, while others. 
which were writien first, have been related at a later point. 

It was not the prophets themselves who wrote the books 
under their name, or who handed down the order of narratives 


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and teachings, Raiher, it was others after them who selected 
pericopes from their prophecy and put down in written form 
whatever they found. They had no idea which pericope came 
earlier and which belonged later. This docs not just apply to the 
mailer of context: they did nol even know the period when each 
was tillered. Now it was not the prophets' intention lo write 
down an entire book all together, for in each prophet's case the 
various revelations were not made at one and the same lime, as 
we learn from Baruch's words, when he says "all of these 
utterances came to me from the mouth of Jeremiah, and I used 
to write them down" [ Jcr. 36: I8|. The scroll which Zekekiah 
lore up and threw into the fire [Jer. 36:23] testifies lo this, and so 
does the letter which Jeremiah wrote and sent to the captives in 
Babylon, which he instructed them to throw into ihe Euphrates 
once they had read it | J^r. 5 1 : 1 3 1 . 

Again, seeing thai all the books of the prophets had become 
corrupted and damaged amongst the Babylonian captivity, after 
the return Ezra the Scribe wrote and set them down in wriling in 
accordance with his wisdom, all thanks lo the grace thai had 
been granted him. In some cases he did this from memory, in 
others from written texts and pericopes preserved in Egypt. As 
a result, a variety of different periods are lo be found in the 
prophetic books. One can learn ihis very precisely by examining 
the books in detail. This can equally be found in the Psalms, as 
well as in the other books. We take as an illustration Psalm 17, 
which is chronologically prior to Psalm 6, seeing that Saul's 
persecution of David look place earlier than David's sin over 
Baihsheba. This can be seen even better in the case of Psalms 
22 and 18: the former was uttered when he was being chased by 
Absalom, whereas he composed ihe hitler in gratitude al the end 
of his life. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

71*. TIMOTHY I. 

Letter 47; this letter, written towards the end of Timothy's 
life (he died in 828) is of particular interest; it deals with two 
main topics, the Syriac translation of Ori gen's Hexapla (known 
today as the Syrohexapla), made by the Syrian Orthodox scholar 
Paul of Telia c.6 1 5; and the discovery, ten years earlier, of ancient 
Hebrew manuscripts in the region of Jericho -a discovery 
anticipating thai of the 'Dead Sea Scrolls' at Qumran by over a 
thousand years! Timothy's Letter is the earliest evidence of 
knowledge of the Syrohexapla among scholars of the Church of 
the East, and it also provides many important insights into how 
manuscripts were copied and circulated. The information about 
the finds of Hebrew manuscripts explains (among other things) 
the appearance in Syriac of the so-called 'Apocryphal Psalms.- 
152-5 - some of which have now turned up in their Hebrew 
original in the Psalms Scroll from Qumran Cave 1 1 . Right at the 
end of the letter Timothy turns to the mailer of ecclesiastical 
appointments, giving a glimpse of the wide extent covered by 
the Church of the East in the early ninth century. 

To the revered bishop MarSergius, metropolitan of Elam, 
the sinner Timothy does obeisance to your reverence and asks 
for your prayer. 

We have read the letters which your reverence sent to us 
on the subject of ihe Hexapla, and we have learnt from all that 
you wrote therein. We give thanks to God for your good health 
and the fair course of your episcopal governance, and we. who 
are sinners, ask God's mercy that your affairs may have a 
successful and glorious outcome. 

On the subject of the book of the Hexapla about which 
your reverence wrote, we have already written and informed 


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you last year that a copy of the Hexapla, written on sheets using 
the Nisjbene format, was sent to us through the diligence of our 
brother Gabriel, synkellos of the resplendent caliph (lit king} 
We hired six scribes and two people to dictate, who dictated to 
the scnbes from the text of the exemplar. We wrote out the 
entire Old Testament, with Chronicles, Ezra, Susanna, Esther 
and Judith, producing three manuscripts, one for us and two for 
the resplendent Gabriel; of those two, one was for Gabriel 
himself, and the other for Beth Lapat, for this is what Gabriel 
had instructed in writing. The manuscripts have now been written 
out with m ach diligence and care, at the expense of great trouble 
and much labour, over six months more or less; for no text is so 
difficult to copy out or to read as this, seeing that there are so 
many dungs in the margin, I mean readings of Aquila, Theodotion 
Symmachus and others, taking up almost as much space as the 
text of the Sepluagint in the Body of the manuscript. There are 
also a large number of different signs above them - how many, it 
is not possible for anyone to say. But we had bad and greedy 
.scribes, eight men for just under six months. The copying was 
done as Jar as possible using correction, seeing that it had been 
made from dictation; the copies were gone over a second time 
and read out. As a result of the excessive labour and work of 
correction my eyes were harmed and I nearly lost my sight - you 
can get an idea of the weakness of our vision from these shapeless 
letters that we are writing now. 

Even the exemplar from which we were copying, however 
contained errors, and most of the Greek names were written in 
reverse; the person who wrote them must have had aknowledge 
ol Greek as weak as our own, apart only from the fact that he 
was not aware of the reversal of the characters he was writing 
whereas we were at least aware of that! For he had not noticed 
the replacement and interchange of the characters, sometimes 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
writing the letter chi in place of kappa, and zeta in place of chi, 
as well as putting all sorts of other things. We, however, 
recognized the situation. 

At the end of every biblical book the following was written: 
"This was written, collated and compared with the exemplar of 
Eusebius, Pamphilus and Origcn". 

This, then, is the way the Hexapla had been copied. It has 
endless differences from the text which wc employ [sc. the 
Peshitta]. I am of the opinion that the person who translated 
this exemplar in our possession was working from the versions 
of Theodotion, Aquila and Symmachus, since for the most part 
there is a greater resemblance to them than to the Septuagint. 1 
had imagined that a copy of the Hexapla had already been sent 
to your reverence, so when you wrote we immediately wrote off 
to the noble Gabriel, telling him to fulfil his promise to you; but 
if he does not want to send it to you, let him write to us, for we 
will copy it out again and send it to you. So much for that topic. 

We have learnt from certain Jews who are worthy of 
credence, who have recently been converted to Christianity, that 
ten years ago some books were discovered in the vicinity of 
Jericho, in a cave-dwelling in the mountain. They say that the 
dog of an Arab who was hunting game went into a cleft after an 
animal and did not come out; his owner then went in after him 
and found a chamber inside the mountain containing many books. 
The huntsman went to Jerusalem and reported this to some Jews. 
A lot of people set off and arrived there; they found books of 
the Old Testament, and, apart from that, other books in Hebrew 
script. Because the person who told me this knows the script 
and is skilled in reading it, I asked him about certain verses 
adduced in our New Testament as being from the Old Testament, 
but of which there is no mention at all in the Old Testament, 


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neither among us Christians, nor among the Jews. He told me 

that they were to be found in the books that had been discovered 


When 1 heard this from that catechumen, I asked other j 
people as well, besides him, and T discovered the same story 
without any difference. I wrote about the matter to the 
resplendent Gabriel, and also to Shubhalmaran, metropolitan of 
Damascus, in order that they might make investigation into these 
books and see if there is to be found in the prophets that 'seal', 
"He will be called Nazarene" [Matt. 2:23], or "That which eye 
has not seen and ear has not heard" [1 Cor. 2: 9], or "Cursed is 
everyone who is hung on the wood" [Gal. 3:13], or "He turned 
back the boundary to Israel, in accordance with the word of the 
Lord which he spoke through Jonah the prophet from Gad Hfar", 
and other passages like tkem which were adduced by the New 
Testament and the Old Testament but which are not to be found 
at all in the Bible we possess. I further asked him, if they found 
these phrases in those books, by all means to translate them. 
For it is written in the Psalm beginning "Have mercy, O God, 
according to your grace' [Ps.51], "Sprinkle upon me with the 
hyssop of the blood of your cross and cleanse me". This phrase 
is not in the Septuagint, nor in the other versions, nor in the 
Hebrew. Now that Hebrew man told me, "We found a David 
[i.e. a Psalter] among those books, containing more than two 
hundred psalms". I wrote concerning all this to them. 

1 suppose that these books may have been deposited either 
by Jeremiah die prophet, or by Baruch, or by someone else from 
those who heard the word and trembled at it; for when the 
prophets learnt through divine revelations of the captivity, plunder 
and burning that was going to come upon the people as a result 
of their sins, being men who were firmly assured that not one of 
God's words would fall to the earth, they hid die books in the 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
mountains and caves to prevent their being burnt by fire or taken 
as plunder by captors. Then those who had hidden them died 
after a period of seventy or fewer years, and when the people 
returned from Babylon there was no one surviving of those who 
had deposited the books. This was why Ezra and others had to 
make investigations, thus discovering what books the Hebrews 
possessed. The Bible among the Hebrews consists of three 
volumes, one [sc. the Pentateuch] being the volume which the 
Seventy Interpreters subsequently translated for king Ptolemy - 
who is worthy of a wreath of accolades; another was the volume 
from which others translated at a later time, while the third is 
preserved amongst them. 

If any of these phrases are to be found in the 
aforementioned books it will be evident that they are more reliable 
than the texts in currency among the Hebrews and among us." 
Although I wrote, I have received no answer from them on this 
matter. I have not got anyone sufficiently capable with me whom 
I can send. The matter has been like a burning fire in my heart 
and it has set my bones alight. 

Pray for me: my frame is very weak, my hands are not 
very good at writing, and my eyes are feeble. Such things are 
indications and messengers of death. Pray for me that I may not 
be condemned at our Lord's judgement. 

The Holy Spirit recently anointed a metropolitan for 
Turkestan, and we are making preparations to anoint another for 
Beth Tuptaye [Tibet]. We have sent another to Shiarzur and 
another for Radan, since Nestorius the metropolitan of Radan 
has died. We are also making preparations for another at Ray 
[Tehran region], since Theodoras has died; another for Gurgan, 
another for Balad - Cyriacns of Beth 'Abe; another for Dasen 
since Jacob has sunk into the pit from which there is no 


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resurrection; another for Beth Nuhadra, which has no bishop. 
So pray with us to the Lord of the harvest that he may send out 
labourers for his harvest. 

Shubhalisho' of Beth Daylamaye has plaited a crown of 
martyrdom. We have sent in his place ten monks from Beth 
'Abe. Pray for me, reverend father in God my Lord. 

Send me the Apologia for Origen by Eusebius of Caesarea, 
so that I may read it and then send it back. Make a search for 
the Discourses on the Soul by the great patriarch Mar Aba: there 
are three of them, but only one is available here. And copy out 
and send the Homilies of Mar Narsai, since we have not got 
them; for Mar Ephrem, of holy memory, wrote to us to say that 
there is a great deal there with you which is not available here. 
Write to 'the Tyrant of Fars' and inform him that every 
metropolitan who is appointed by a bishop with his co-ordainers is 
subject to the canon of the Church of God, the Synod of the 318 
Fathers [sc. the Council of NicaeaJ, and the canons of Mar Aba. 

72*. ISHO'BARNUN, Questions and Answers on the Old and 

New Testaments. 

John the Baptist's diet of 'locusts and wild honey 7 was a 
topic of much speculation in the early centuries of the Church. 
Isho'barnun rejects a widespread view that sought (by various 
means) to make John into a vegetarian, preferring instead a 
spiritual interpretation (for which he uses the Greek term : theoria\ 
literally 'contemplation'). (A discussion of Syriac views on John's 
diet can be found in Oriens Christianus 54 (1970), 1 13-24). 

Question: what are the spiritual indications (theorias) hidden 
in John's clothing and in the honey and locusts that he ate'' (Matt 

Solution: In the camel-hair garment that he wore one can 



Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
properly see a spiritual indication of the repentence he was 
preaching. In the sweetness of the honey he ate the sweetness 
of the bliss to come is hinted at, and in the locusts' ability to fly 
one can see the ability to fly of the bodies of the saints, who will 
fly on the clouds to meet our Lord [ 1 Thess. 4:17]. 

Those who say that the word for 'locusts' really means 
'roots' etc. are ineptly introducing allegorical usage. To make 
the matter clearer, let me compare all the other things connected 
with John. In the annunciation of his conception on the Day of 
Atonement [ 10 September, deduced from the supposition that 
Zacharias was high priest], there is the spiritual indication of the 
atonement that is given to everyone in Christ; in the loosing of 
the his father's tongue on the day of his birth there is an indication 
of the release from error and deviation etc. which we receive in 
Jesus; in his departure to the desert our departure from earth to 
heaven is hinted at; in the knowledge of Scripture that he acquired 
in the desert, the perfect knowledge which we shall receive in 
the world to come is to be seen; in the desolate wilderness of 
Judaea where he was preaching, he was hinting at the desolation 
of mortality, seeing that this will be dissolved; in the girdle with 
which his waist was bound he was hinting at the chastity, firmness, 
and bliss which are with Christ. 

73*. JOB OFEDESSA, Book of Treasures, 11.15. 

The observation that human hair turns white in old age, 
but animal hair does not, requires an explanation; Job provides 
one on the basis of Galen's doctrine of the four humours', all 
pervasive in Late Antiquity and in the European Middle Ages. 

Why only human hair turns while in old age. 

The reason is as follows: human beings make use of 
quantities of different kinds of foods; furthermore, even after 
hunger has been satisfied they go on eating and drinking. This 




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produces many superfluities which gel attached to the skin Now 
that external area of the body is soft and tender, easily liable to 
change. 1 his lasts as long as someone is at a young a" C - then 
alter puberty, heat is joined to humidity, and its burning flame 
parches up die excess humidity, and this produces black hair all 
over the body. But when a man reaches the final stages of life 
old age, then the heat to be found in the humidity is diminished' 
and it quickly evaporates owing to the separating out of the pores' 
and the displacement of the humidity. Then cold begins to 
predominate, and as a result of the coolness and humidity the 
hair starts growing white: once the coolness has predominated 
over the moisture, it solidifies and grows white. First of all the 
head and beard go white, because it is there thai the great 
superfluity which produces the hair accumulates. 

The hair of other animals does not erow white in old a"c 
because they do not makeW of quantities of different kinds of 
food and they do not go on eating after their hunger has been 
satisfied. 1 his .s the reason why they have less of a superfluity 
accumulating by the skin, and this hardens and dries up thus 
pressing and squeezing the pores, making the superfluity less 
liable to change. Also, what does accumulate is small in quantity. 
Because the nature of animals is dense, and the superfluity which 
accumulates by the skin is dry, their pores are narrow This 
explains why in old age they do not experience evaporation- since 
their heat .s preserved together with their superfluity, without 
receiving any increase, their hair remains black, and does not 
turn white in old age. 

This is also the reason why their hair does not grow very 
long, staying much the same from childhood to old age 
Exceptions are goats and sheep, and some other species- because 
oi the greater humidity and heal which their nature possesses 
compared with other species, their hair undergoes a daily growth' 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

In this extract from his Commentary on the Liturgy (1.7) it 
is interesting that John uses, in connection with the Incarnation, 
the characteristic early Syriac phraseology of the Word 'putting 
on the body': after the christological controversies of the fifth 
and sixth centuries Syrian Orthodox writers tended to drop the 
use of this phrase, seeing it as loo dyophysitc in implication (see 
22(b)), whereas writers of the Church of the East of course 
continued to employ it. 

Furthermore, when priests and deacons put on their 
vestments they should understand and realize that they are putting 
them on in the same way that the divine Word put on his body: 
for just as God the Word took our body and then brought it to 
his Begetter by means of his raising it up, so too in ihe case of „ 
priests and deacons when they put on their vestments; and it is 
as if they were bringing the body of the Word to the Father for a 
second lime. How gready, therefore, should they be in a state of 
awe and trembling. 


Isho 'dad's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments 
collects together earlier opinions. In the excerpt below (on 
Gen. 22) he includes a brief quotation of the passage from 
Narsai, given above. 

'God tested Abraham' [Gcn.22:l|. This is spoken in 
human terms, as is the custom of Scripture: just as in the case of 
the passage 'An angel encountered Moses and sought to kill him' 

etc. [Exod.4:24] It also resembles the passage 'God has come 
to test you, to bring you low and to test you' [Deut.8:2J. 

Here too. wishing to establish in the world an image of 
Abraham's virtue, and to show that he (God) had not chosen 
him to no purpose, but rather, justly, and because of the purity 


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of his love etc, he commanded him to sacrifice his son. 

Even though the prophet [Moses] spoke of the event in a 
story-telling manner, after the custom of Scripture, describing 
what is seen, rather than what is actually the case - just as the 
passage 'Three men were seen by Abraham' [Gen. 18:2], and 
other similar passages - nevertheless he depicted beforehand the 
signification of the Revelation, in that the Clothing [i.e. body] of 
the Word was going to be sacrificed on the wood, using as a type 
Isaac, from whose progeny he was going to shine forth. 

'Abraham your father was yearning....' [John 8:56], and 
Paul. 'It was given to him in a parable* [Heb. 1 J : 19], etc, likewise 

Some people say that Sarah was not aware that Abraham 
was going to sacrifice her #on, on the grounds that he did not 
reveal this to her; for he was convinced of the feeble nature of 
women: what a commotion she would make; perhaps she would 
stop the whole affair. Just as Mar Narsai also said: 'He did not 
reveal the secret of his Lord either to the members of his 
household, or to Sarah, out of fervour of love towards his Lord'. 

Others, however, not wanting to rob Sarah of sharing in 
Abraham's virtuous action, say that she did know, etc. 

'He chopped wood' [v.3] - that is to say, two or three 
bits of wood, only in order that the fire could catch on them, for 
he was going to the land of Palestine [see Gen. 2 1 :34], which is 
full of many trees. 

Now that 'mountain' [v.2] is the mountain of Sion, and 
the location Golgotha. 

'For three days' [v. 4]. Some reckon from the Wednesday 
on which the Jews look counsel to crucify him, seeing that he 
was reckoned as dead fYom that day, with the Thursday and the 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

They saw the place from afar' [v.4]. That is, only after a 
long lime would these things lake their fulfilment. 

The question is raised of what it was that Abraham saw, so 
that he might thereby recognize the place where he would make 
the sacrifice: 

- some have said that God fixed in his mind an idea of the 
place, without any external sign; 

- others say that he saw a column of light in thai place, 
slretehing as far as heaven; 

- others say he saw a column of light in the form of a 


From his book on Rhetoric V.12.2. 

Similar to an aphorism (or: parable) is a riddle; or rather, 
a riddle is an aphorism whose meaning is particularly hidden 
away and secret; generally it is put together without the use of 
any similitude, as in the case of Samson's riddle: 

Out of the eater there issued something to eat; and out of 
what is bitter there issued something sweet | Judges 14: 14]. 

Or again, the one that was presented to Homer by the 
Arcadian fishermen who were picking out lice by the edge of a 
river; he was asking about fish, bin they replied with the lice in 


"O Arcadian men", he said, "fishermen by trade, have you 
caught anything?" 

"What we have caught we have destroyed", they replied, 
"but what has not been caught we carry about in our clothes". 


Sample Passages... 

Or like the one which some other people composed 
concerning a shadow: 

From three one searches for it, 
from five one catches it, 
four contains its name, 

and seventy provide its interpretation. 

If it goes in front, ii is not caught up, 

if it stays behind, it never remains behind. 

Similar to these is the kind of aphorism which Evagrius, 
most excellent of the 'Mourners', composed: 

The chariot of knowledge is fire and air, 

that of ignorance is air and water | Kcphalaia Gnostica 115 1 ]. 
Or again, 

When bearers of children cease to bear, then the guardians 
of the house will tremble; then both heads will gather the rose 
and the fine linen [Keph. Gnostics 11.50]. 

Section V of this anonymous author's extensive 
commentary on the liturgical offices concerns the baptismal 
rite. In the early Church baptisms took place either at 
Epiphany or at Easter, depending on local tradition; in his liturgical 
reforms in the mid seventh century, however, Isho'yahb HI 
specified that baptisms should only take place on the eve of the 
least of the Resurrection; die rationale behind this is given in the 
following excerpt is taken from die beginning of the first chapter 
of this section (ed. Connolly, pp.96-97). 

First Chapter: Why was it that Isho'yahb [III] arranged 
baptism on the eve of the feast of the Resurrection when our 
Lord was baptised at Epiphany? 

Through the assistance of our Lord and at your prayers, 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
our brother, we have come out of the mighty ordeal of 
commenting on the liturgy of the Mysteries, and our terror in 
this respect has been dissipated, even though the explanations 
given are inept; nevertheless, in accordance with our strength 
we have completed them, in order to keep our promise to you. 

So at this point let us turn to commenting on the rite of 
holy Baptism. You asked, our brother, concerning the day of 
baptism. Because our Lord's baptism mystically symbolized 
death to him, but to us nothing of the sort- his death symbolizes 
our baptism, seeing that at his death and resurrection we are 
baptized so that, like him, we may finally rise - consequently, it is 
quite right that we arc not baptized along with our Lord at 
Epiphany, for the blessed Paid said, "Do you not realise that 
those of us who have been baptized in Christ have been baptized . 
in his death, so that it may be for us asymbol of our resurrection" 
[Rom.6:3-4]. Just as he was baptized and then completed his 
divine purpose, so it was only then that we received his coming. 
And just as, when he was baptized, he symbolized his death, and 
then after this symbolic death he died a physical death and arose, 
so let us too leave off our baptizing until the liturgical season of 
his death. The chief reason is because he is different from us; 
another reason is that he arose ahead of us in actual fact, while it 
was with a promise that he promised us resurrection. Again, 
because it was by his death that we have been saved, and he was 
not glorified except at his death. For when we are baptized we 
also vanquish Satan together with death, whereas he did not 
openly conquer Satan on the day of his baptism, in that he fasted 
after he was baptized and it was during his fast that he vanquished 

Thus let us delay aaf\ he depicts his death in baptism, and 
thus conquers Satan, and i., this way, also death. And let us go 


Sample Passages... 

down with him in the Jordan [i.e. also in the sense of 'the font'], 
as though in Sheol, so that, along with his resurrection, which is 
in actual fact, we may depict our own resurrection in symbol, 
for this provides us with a type of his baptism. 

This is why we carry out the rite of our baptism at the time 
of the Resurrection, and not on the day when he was baptized - 
in order that, when he rises from the grave, we may rise from the 
'Jordan' [i.e. the font]. 


In his chapter on Mar Narses, bishop of Shenna (end of 
the eighth century), Thomas points out that it was not only 
Christian saints who have commended, and benefited from, a 
life of stillness and silence, but also several pre-Christian Greek 
philosophers; he then goes on to list some examples - clearly 
taken from a source in which these philosophers have undergone 
some surprising transformations (thus Homer has become an 
alchemist!) (Book of Superiors V. 13). 

Pythagoras, great among philosophers, said as a result of 
the experience he had gained over a long period, "Without the 
stilling of the body in reclusion and the silence of the tongue 
from speaking, philosophy cannot be acquired". He instructed 
everyone who was being taught in his school to keep silence for 
five years, and the entry into wisdom was instilled by him in that 
school by means of hearing and sight only. 

The wise Homer, after having lived in the desert for many 
years, causing his intellect to fly about collecting knowledge, 
arrived at a subtle perception which he received through stillness 
and silence. By means of various ingredients, fire and a furnace, 
he transmuted lead into silver, bronze into gold, and formed 
precious stones through the use of herbal preparations; starting 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
from these common things, he likewise produced other things 
from other materials. 

Concerning Plato who was wiser in philosophy than all 
others, and who obtained a glorious reputation among the 
Athenians, it is said, and also written, that he built himself a cell 
in the inner desert, beyond the bounds of habitation and 
cultivation; there he look the Testament of the blessed Moses 
and meditated on the verse "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God 
is one" [Deut. 6:4] for three years, until God, the Lord of all, 
saw his labour and trouble and granted him his mercy. And he 
wrote, saying "The God of the Jews is single in nature and 
threefold in persons". This composition of his, on the similarity 
of nature and God's unity, and on the Trinity of Persons and 
their attributes is extant among the books of the Church. A 
further thing is said of him: once, when his mind was occupied 
with the contemplation of created things, he laboured in his 
intellect with acumen and fell into great toil and affliction; but 
once he had plucked out his desires and become aware of the 
stirring of his contemplation, and been persuaded from within, 
he said "Verily I have attained to part of it". Whereupon he 
remained silent in his joy three whole nights and days without 
any movement whatsoever. 

The master of physicians, the archiatros [chief doctor] 
Hippocrates, the philosopher, along with all the wisdom which 
he received from stillness and silence, dived in his mind, deep in 
thought, entered the struggle of mental investigation, and so 
grasped how a child is nourished in its mother's womb. 

And if God, the Lord of all, has bestowed upon pagans 
who are removed from spiritual knowledge, the wisdom they 
sought after, either to give them joy by reason of their affliction, 
or as it were for the benefit of others by means of their labour of 




■ < 

sample Passages... 

profound stillness, silence and separation from mankind how 
much more ml] he do so in the case of holy people who keep 
commandments and have followed after his will am id h g 
thirst, suffering, tears and prayers night and day ' 


one onhe h t B °° k ^ ^^ (#U5 tl24]) Lsho ' d[iah ** * 
Nineveh "^ bl ° 8raphlCal "«»»» ° f ^ of 

On the holy Mar Isaac, bishop of Nineveh, who left the 

r,,i r 6 W ^ m t de biSh ° P f0r Nineveh b y M *r Giwareis the 

Chohcos 661-68l]i„ the monastery ofBeth <Abe. Aft, he 

had spent five months in the office of Pastor of Nineveh n 

uccession to Mar Mose.f, the previous bishop, he" , he 

Alter the .see had remained vacant for a time, the blessed 
Sabnsho was appointed in succession to him. He too aban on d 
to cprscopacy and became an anchorite in the days of Z 

.' m sm, :r; sl ;' [68f '■ 7,H), • He died - *« -™ - 5 

oi iviar fcnahin in the district of Qardu. 

Isaac, then, after having abandoned the throne of Nineveh 
went up to the mountain of Maiut which is encompassed bv *' 
region of Beth Huzaye, and lived in stillness to", h 
nchontes there. He then came to the monastery of R ban 
Shabu, He was exceptionally well acquainted with the d vi 
Su.pture S - so much so that he lost the sight of his eyes , s a 
£* of his reading and asceticism. He JL well ^ i 
he dxvme mysteries and wrote books on the solitaries' way 

mL • n P i / maltei ' S WhiGh Were not accepted by 

many. Darnel son of Tubanitha, bishop of GarmTi, was 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
scandalized by him as a result of these matters he spoke about. 
He departed this temporal life in deep old age, and his body was 
laid to rest in the monastery of Shabur. Now his family was 
from Beth Qalraye. 

I think that envy was stirred up against him by people inside 
the monastery, as happened in the cases of Joseph the Seer, John 
of Apamea and John of Dalyatha. 


(a) In the course of his Introduction to the Psalter Moshe 
bar Kepha enumerates the various biblical versions, beginning 
with the Greek, and going on to the Syriac; on the origin of the 
Peshitta Old Testament mentions only one out of several different 
traditions that were current (some took it back to the time of 
Solomon, others - wisely! - stated it was unknown). He also 
records two different opinions concerning which Syriac Olil 
Testament translation has the greater authority, the Peshitta or 
Syrohexapla (here called the 'Seventy Two'). 

In our own Syriac tongue there are two translations of the 
Old Testament. One is the Peshitta, which we read; this was 
translated from Hebrew into Syriac. The Peshitta was translated 
from Hebrew into Syriac in the time of king Abgar of Edessa, as 
Mar Jacob has said. Mar Jacob says that Addai the Apostle and 
the believing king Abgar sent a man to Jerusalem and the region 
of Palestine, and they translated the Old Testament from Hebrew 
into Syriac. The version of the Seventy Two was translated 
from Greek into Syriac by Paul, bishop of Telia d-Mauzelat, in 
the time of the emperor Hciaclius, according to some people. 
Of all these translations the Peshitta, which was translated from 
Hebrew into Syriac, is the most exact, in that they say that the 
Hebrew tongue is closely related to Syriac. But Philoxenus of 
Mabbug says that of all the versions that of the Seventy Two is 


Sample Passages 

and so too did ^ StmOWa fr ™ " <» the Gospel and Acts, 

should be lookin,; ,„ , he em wh n ° C <* ""bapiized 

fashioned Adam with hi, In X%" h ° f * ** " G " d 

doe., the priest a, this -SSSS^SS Creali ™' S ° lM 
10 John who pm his h ,„,, „m Secnnd| y : '° correspond 

Third ly: the l»d , h ", ™ '^ ° " K S °" ? Ihc B »„t. 
- .hough pointing wnth a ' w ul taSE " "^ 

'S my beloved Son in whom I ,71 , * ° Ul ™ s 

Fourthly.- the hand of thl," PlMSed [M,m - 3:17). 

heenehosenbygraeetobeaministerJ^^X^. 1 

Book of Centuries, Memra iii 3 6T 6S « t, - u 
look-out that the intellect need nt 1S bul * Sm ^ le 

-who, like some "lorious sov,t : ha *?«?* a * ™y be around 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

64. There is nothing in creation belonging to this world of 
the senses which is not a symbol and type of thai spiritual world, 
and he who is willing to depict in his heart a portrait of the world 
to come, will, on the basis of this transient world, portray a symbol 
that bears a likeness of the next. 

65. He who wishes to inherit the Kingdom which the 
Saviour has promised us should prepare for it in himself by 
constant reflection on insights into the world to come. These 
insights into the symbols of Reality are like torches of light that 
give illumination before the intellectso that it can see to travel to 
the Kingdom. 

84*. ANONYMOUS, Book of the Cause of Causes. 

The unknown author sets out the circumstances surrounding 
tire writing of this extensive work (ed. Kayscr, pp.7- 10). 

The reason for this work, why it came about, by whom it 

is, and for whom it was written. 

To all the peoples under the heavens, all brethren, relatives 
and members of one another, all part of a single family and race, 
sharing in a common rational and spiritual soul that has the 
capability of intelligence and understanding, and sharing too in a 
body formed and composed out of the four material elements - 
greetings! May there be peace upon you all from the Lord of 
true peace, along with perfect health, well-being and preservation 
in a life that is lived in the light of the knowledge of truth; for 
without this there is no true life, no well-being, no perfect health, 
but only darkness, falsehood, the wandering astray of error and 
death of perdition - from which may we all, along with all of us, 
be preserved, amen. 

May we live in the light of the knowledge of truth, and 
may we all enjoy the grace and the compassion of the good Lord 


Sample Passages... 

of us all, the wise Guide of our souls, the generous Provisioner 
of our lives, to whom be continual praise from us all, together 
with upright confession and true and spiritual worship, at all times 
and in all generations to eternaJ ages, amen. 

Your brother, the least of you all, an insignificant member 
who shares with you all in the human family, a feeble person 
from Edessa, the chief city of Mesopotamia that is situated 
between the mighty rivers of the Euphrates and the Tigris, makes 
acknowledgement of your honour and true wisdom, having as 
his intention true love and divine affection. 

Somehow or other I, your insignificant brother, came to 
hold the post of leadership of the people, whether by God's will, 
or by human agency - praise be to him who alone knows 
everything. I remained jn this ministry at the head of my people 
for some thirty years, during which I was tried in many things 
and had to bear immense anguish and many afflictions, alone 
with vexations and troubles, as I conducted myself in this world 
that causes confusion and darkness, experiencing what leaders 
ol the people and pastors customarily have to put up with from 
the people and flocks committed into their hands. I fell many 
times, and picked myself up; I suffered and was tried, I ran far 
away but was then called back, so I returned, only to be overcome 
by the lurbulance of the world. I thought to myself, if I do not 
escape for good, and remove myself completely from the world 
and what goes on it it, my soul will become darkened and my 
intellect blinded, and I will perish from the True Life. Once 
again I was tested in my thoughts and fell into doubt: maybe this 
idea does not correspond to the power of truth; or, maybe, after 
I have left, I will be forced once again, either by the love of my 
fellow human beings, or by compulsion, or by temptation, to 
return once again to the world. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Being greatly wearied by these thoughts I supplicated the 
good Lord, who takes care of his creation, to confirm my thoughts 
in the direction of whatever was pleasing to him and in accordance 
with his will, as well as being beneficial to my soul and likely to 
brin" me to the light of the knowledge of truth. Then my thoughts 
became firmly fixed on flight and on distancing myself from the 

[ ] I turned my back on the world and fled, departing for 
the desolate mountain and the lonely wilderness, a place destitute 
of human beings, hidden away and far removed from any 
highways or coming and going, and with no human habitation 
nearby There I lived in stillness and solitude, in the vicinity ol 
two or three solitaries living the same kind of life. Whenever I 
recalled the world and remembered its mode of conduct and the 
judgement involved in it, I would shake and tremble; it was as il 
I was in fear and terror of a burning fire, or a rough sea that 
threatened destruction. But as long as I endured in stillness and 
solitude far removed from the concerns of the world and Us 
importunity, my heart was fortified and took strength, and my 
mind was confirmed, as a great joy and deep comfort began to 
reign over me, in that the light of truth had begun to shine out 
over me. 

Once my thoughts had been strengthened, I would prostrate 
myself before the good Lord, and give thanks to his great and 
ineffable grace that he had effected for me who am so despicable; 
and my heart became full of love for those who had persecuted 
or afflicted me, or caused me much grief, and I would pray and 
supplicate that they might be assisted and delivered from the 
darkness of ignorance. 

[After much prayer I came to realize that] just as the sun 
shines on both the good and the bad, so God's compassion is 


Sample Passages... 

ZSL'Z ?*'*"* *** "* «■»>« wl >» «*> well, win 

27*, Z , m ° St MCellen,ly and ^undantly . p rov £3 

that is, he asks we 1 So when rheT nrri u„a ■ ■ I ^ ,UViuea > 

mv feeble eta*. ■, u had VLSUed and listed 

my leeble state with his grace, as a result of my wretched soiil', 
expenence I came to perceive and understand the ^s^ 

ss zee? g T d Lor " the * c --^: 

nuviuei, nas lor his beloved creation And nnr* Th^iu 

c * /" L J r rCSOlVed l ° Write these 0lin ^ down for all peonies 
o that whercverthere ts anyone slothful Sd negBg^t^vS 

aeglectfulness, and escape from the dark night of ijmorance 
walking instead in the path of the light of truth -in <f 
*e city of the heavenly Kingdom, to t£^%££™ 
with the great Sovereign and Lord of dory whose door n 
to everyone who knocks, and whose Kingd * » Sive i 3" 
being capable of holding all creation. agCS ' 

Introduction to his Commentary on the Apocalypse 
Dionysius' Commentary on the whole Bible includes those 
New Testament books, such as the Revelation, which were ab sen 
from the Peshitta and were only translated into Syriac a 1 1 

o the Revelation Dionysius cites a number of works by ] 
J* "*« - Mch d » "* — ive (notably Zj 
Chapters against Gains, of which only small fragment die 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Syriac translation survive in the library of St Catherine's 
Monastery, Sinai). 

At the outset, we observe that the majority of teachers 
have had their doubts about the Revelation of John and have 
said that il is not realty his. This is what Eusebius of Caesarea 
indicates in his work entitled Ekklesiastike, that is, Church History. 
Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, says that the Revelation is not 
by John the Apostle, but by another John, a priest (or: elder) 
living in Asia; for the impression, or stamp, of the style of the 
Gospel is unlike that of the Revelation. Further, John never 
mentions his name at all in the Gospel, whereas this other man 
places his name both at the beginning and at the end of the 
Revelation. But we acknowledge that the person who wrote it 
received the Revelation from our Lord. 

Irenaeus the bishop and Hippolytus of Bosra say that the 
Revelation is indeed by John the Evangelist, and that it was 
revealed to him at the end of the reign of Diocletian. Eusebius 
of Caesarea agrees with this, and goes on to say that "if someone 
does not accept il as the Revelation of John the Apostle and 
Evangelist, we would then say that it is by John the priest (or: 
elder) who lived in the time of John the Apostle. There arc two 
tombs in Asia, one belonging to the Evangelist, the other to John 
the priest (or: elder). 

Hippolytus of Rome said that a certain person called Gaius 
appeared, who used to say that neither the Gospel nor the 
Revelation was by John, but instead they were by the heretic 
Cerinthus. The blessed Hippolytus took his stand against this 
Gaius and showed that the teaching of John in the Gospel and in 
the Revelation was quite different from that of Cerinthus: this 
Cerinthus used to teach circumcision, and he became angry with 
Paul for not circumcising Titus. In one of his letters he calls the 


Sample Passages... 

Apostle and his disciples "false apostles and deceitful workers". 
He also taught that the world was created by angels, that our! 
Lord was not born of a Virgin, and that he did not consume 
corporeal food and drink - along with many other blasphemies. 
The Gospel and the Revelation of John, however, go along with 
the view of the other Scriptures, and so those who say that the 
Revelation is by Cerinthus and not by John the Apostle are wrong. 

We agree with Hippolytus. The holy Cyril and Saint Severus 
also testify that the Revelation is by John the Evangelist. So do 
all the teachers who adduce quotations from it in their various 
books. Gregory the Theologian also adduces evidence from it 
in his work called Syntaktarion, where he says, "Just as John 
teaches me in his Revelation, ^Make a way for my people and 
throw out these stones...', calling heretics and their teaching 
stones'". „ 


Michael's Chronicle incorporates numerous earlier 
documents, and among them a short life of Jacob of Edessa 
(Book XI. 14). 

On Jacob of Edessa. His family was from the territory of 
Antioch, from a village called 'Ein Di'ba, in the region of Gomah. 
During his youth he was brought up in the entourage of Cyriacus, 
a chaste old man was the Visitor of the region. He read all the 
books of the Old and New Testament, and the Teachers [of the 
Church], and gained a good command of them. He then went 
to the monastery of Aphtonia, where he received the monastic 
habit. He made a deep study there of the Psalms in Greek, and 
the reading of the Scriptures, as well as the [Greek] language in 
detail. From there he set off for Alexandria; having stayed a 
certain time there and amassed knowledge of the sciences there, 
he returned once more to Syria and came to Edessa, where he 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
made his monastic retreat. 

Having acquired a great reputation amongst everyone, he 
was called to the episcopal throne of the city of Edessa and was 
consecrated by the Patriarch Athanasius, 'the Interpreter of books' 
[683/4-687]. He remained on his episcopal throne for four 
years. He was subjected to many troubles by people who had 
been banned by him from exercising their ministry because of 
their uncanonical actions, and also by others whom he had 
expelled and driven out from the Church of God. Since his zeal 
and fervour of mind did not allow him to put up with this, he 
resigned from his pastoral office, and committed the episcopal 
throne to the Patriarch Mar Julian [687-707/8], and set off with 
his two disciples, Daniel and Constantine. Before going, he had 
an argument with the Patriarch and the bishops over the proper 
keeping of the ecclesiastical canons, but no one listened to him 
at all: instead, they all urged him to make concessions to the 
time and the situation. This is the reason why he brought along 
the book of the ecclesiastical canons and set fire to it, burning it 
in front of the gate of the Patriarch's monastery, crying out as he 
did so, "The canons are being trampled on by you and arc not 
being observed, so I am burning them in the fire as being 
redundant and of no further use". 

He then straightway made his monastic retreat in the 
m onastery of Mar Jacob of Kayshum . There he composed two 
discourses of reprimand: one against the pastors of the Church, 
and the other against those who had transgressed ecclesiastical 
law and the canons. 

A serene and kind old man named Habbib was consecrated 
bishop of Edessa. 

As for Jacob, the monks of Eusebona requested him to 
come over to them to teach and renew there the study of the 



Sample Passages . . . 

Greek language which had died out. In that monastery he taught! 
the Greek Psalms, the reading of the Scriptures, and the [Greekfl 
language for eleven years. Certain brethren, however, out of 3 
jealousy hated the Greeks and stirred up a conflict with him, and! 
sohe^transfe^g^^^^^ » , 

with seven of his disciples. Aua,ai09 ?|p 

f^tv,f I ? i Vli S( ? IeC0nStantine was con s e <™ed [bishop] for thel 
fmthful of Bnhynia, but when for various reasons he dm not go 
there, they transferred him to the territory of Horns. 

Jacob resided there for nine years. In this monastery he 
corrected [the translation of] the Old Testament. 

When Habbib, their bishop, died, the Edessenes - and 
especmlly the aged Athanasius the teacher - set off in zeal to the * 
Patriarch and demanded dftt he compel Jacob to return to them 
[as bishop]. So he came back and sat on his episcopal throne 
He administered the see for four months, and then set off 

rem™ S? T^ ? b00kS and diSd P les ' intendin g then to 
W Zll h \ ° n reaChing ±& m0naster * he loaded up 

ovenontT Se f, them ° ff ahCad ° f him ' but at that P^nt fate 
overtookhim and he ended his life in the monastery. His body 

was deposited in it. This was in the year 1015 [= AD 704 but 

date, 1019 = AD 708], on the 5th June. Many miracles occur 
from his sarcophagus. 



Numerous legends grew up over time concerning the 
subsequent history, or in somecases, the ancestry, of material 

in both eastern and western Christian tradition is the wood of 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
' the cross, which is traced backwards in time, through Solomon's 
Temple to Noah's Ark and even earlier. In the following example, 
characteristic of the Book of the Bee, we learn that the wood of 
Moses' staff had both a prehistory and an afterlife, eventually 
ending up as part of the wood of the cross. 

Concerning the history of the staff of Moses. 

When Adam and Eve left Paradise, Adam, as though 
realizing that he would not return again to his original home, 
broke off a branch from the Tree of Good and Evil - which was 
a fig tree - and took it with him as he left It served as his staff 
all the days of his life. After Adam's death his son Seth received 
it; there were no weapons yet at that time. This staff passed on 
from hand to hand down till Noah. From Noah it came to Shem, 
and from Shem it was handed on as a blessed relic from GodtS*. 
Paradise, down to Abraham. Abraham used it to break the 
carved statues and idols which his father used to make; this was 
the reason why God said to him, "Depart from your father's 
house", etc.[Gen. 12:1]. He had it in his hand everywhere, 
taking it as far as Egypt, and from Egypt he took it to Palestine. 

Afterwards Isaac received it, and from Isaac it came to 
Jacob, who used it while shepherding the flocks of Laban the 
Aramaean in Padan Aram. Jacob's fourth son, Judah, then 
received it This was the staff which Judah gave to his daughter- 
in-law Tamar, along with his ring and scarf, in payment for what 
he had done [Gen.38: 1 8]. From him it came to Peres. There 
were then wars everywhere, and an angel took the staff away 
and placed it in the Cave of Treasures in the mountains of Moab, 
until Midian should be built Now in Midian there was a man 
who was upright and just before God, whose name was Jethro. 
While he was shepherding his flocks in the moutnains, he came 
upon the cave and, through divine agency, took the staff. He 


Sample Passages,., 

used il while shepherding his flocks until his old age. When 
Jelhro gave his daughter to Moses in marriage, he told him. 
"Come in, my son, take the staff, and go forth to your flocks". 
The moment Moses stepped on the threshhold of the door, an 
angel caused the staff to move and it came out of its own accord 
to meet Moses. Moses took the staff and kept it with him until 
the lime when God spoke with him on Mount Sinai. When 
God told him, "Throw the staff on the ground" [Exod. 4:3], he 
did so, and it became a large snake. The Lord then said "Pick it 
up", and when he picked it up it became a staff, as before. 

This is the staff which God gave him by way of assistance 
and deliverance, to become an object of wonder with which to 
deliver Israel from slavery to the Egyptians. It turned into a 
snake in Egypt, at the bidding of the living God. With it God 
spoke to Moses, and it swallowed up the staff of Posdi, the 
Egyptians' sorceress. With it he smote the length and breadth 
of the Red Sea, and the depths contracted in the very heart of 
the sea. This staff was in Moses' hands in the wilderness of 
Ashimon, and with it he smote the rocky stone, whereupon water 
flowed forth [Num. 20: 1 1]. God then gave power to serpents 
to destroy the Israelites because they had provoked him to anger 
over the Waters of Disputes [Meribah], Moses then prayed 
before the Lord, and God told him, "Make yourself a bronze 
serpent and set it upon the staff, so^that the Israelites can gaze on 
itand gelhealing" [Num. 2 1 :8]. Moses did as the Loid had instructed 
him and placed the bronze seipent in the sight of all the Israelites in 
the wilderness. When they gazed on it they were healed. 

After all the Israelites, apart from Joshua son of Nun and 
Caleb son of Yephunnah, had died, these two entered the Land 
of Promise taking the staff with them because of the wars with 
the Philistines and the Amalekites. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

Phineas then hid the staff in the wilderness, in the dust at 

the gate of Jerusalem. It was there until our Lord Christ was 

born. He, by the will of his divinity, showed it to Joseph the 

husband of Mary, keeping it until he returned to Nazareth. From 

Joseph his son James - the one who is named "the brother of the 

Lord" - received it. Judas Iscariot, being a thief, stole it from 

James. When the Jews crucified our Lord they did not have 

enough wood for our Lord's arms, so Judas, in his wickedness, 

gave them the staff. So it became for them a cause of judgement 

and downfall, and for many, a raising up. 

93*. ANONYMOUS, Chronicle to year 1234. 

In the sections covering the biblical period, the authors of 
world chronicles often draw on non-biblical sources, as well as 
biblical. Thus the following passage, which concerns Moses*'- 
Ethiopian wife [Num. 12: 1 1, draws on material from two different 
sources, the Hellenistic writer Artapanus, and Josephus' 
Antiquities (11.217-57). 

(A discussion of these sources in Syriac chronicles can be 
found in the Journal of Jewish Studies 33 (1982), 237-55). 

Concerning the Ethiopian wife whom Moses married. 

The diviners and enchanters of Pharaoh king of Egypt 
informed him that someone from the people of Israel would rise 
up and rule over the kingdom of the Egyptians. On hearing this, 
Pharaoh king of Egypt assumed hostility in his heart, ordering 
every male child born to the Israelites to be thrown into the river. 

At this time Moses was born, and his mother devised and 
made him a chest, in which she placed Moses, and then threw 
the chest into the river. 

Now king Pharaoh had a daughter called Merits, and he 
gave her in marriage to Chenephres, king of Memphis. 


Sample Passages... 

She went down in those days to divert herself by the river ! 
and seeing the chest, took it off the surface of the water On' 
opening it, she saw the child inside it. She look him and bronchi 
him up as her son. 

One day, king Pharaoh took him and lifted him up on his 
knees so as to honour his daughter; and he took out the royal 
diadem and placed it on the child's head. Through the agency 
of God, the child took the diadem from off his head, put it on 
the ground in front of Pharaoh, and trampled on it. beinsi as yet 
unaware of what was good and what bad. 

Now when the king saw what had happened because of 
Moses, he imagined that it must be he who would reign over the 
kingdom of the Egyptians, as his diviners had said; and so he 
wanted to kill him, but OUt of respect for his daughter he did not 
do so; tor he was waitingTor an occasion to kill him. When his 
daughter became aware of this, she took Moses and hid him 
until he had grown up. 

When he had grown up, she handed him over to learn the 
wisdom of the Egyptians from Jannes and Jambres, the wise 
men who later on withstood him with their enchantments From 
them, he learnt all types of wisdom, through the care of. 
Pharoaoh's daughter. He learnt augury and divination, and eveiy 
art ol enchantment. And Pharaoh heard of his wisdom. 

Then at that time the Cushites came to make war with the 
Egyptians, and Pharaoh said to his daughter, "I have heard that 
Moses is wise and skilled in all the sciences; I will send him 
against our enemies, and if he conquers them I will make him 
king durmg my lifetime". She, however, suspected there was 
guile in his heart, and so she made her father swear. Her father 
then swore he would not kill him, but rather would increase his 
.status. Then she brought Moses before the seat of Pharaoh her 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
father Having made him leader and comm ander of the forces, 
he sent him off to war, to go down by sea to Cush; for no one 
could go by dry land to Cush because of the multitude of snaices 
and serpents there. 

Now Moses brought a bird which is a destroyer of that 
evil kind of reptile: wherever any evil reptile hears its cry, it flees 
and removes itself far off. Now this bird's name is the "ibis . 
Moses brought this bird and made a bronze cage for it, and look 
it with him. and so they set out to go down by the desert, since 
the Cushites were in control of the sea. The moment that the 
bird caught the scent of a reptile it gave a cry, and every reptile 
would run away. In this way they were able to go down to Cush. 
On arriving at the city, they saw that it was surrounded by 
a river, and they did not know how to enter the city. A certain 
Cushitc woman looked out from the wall - she was the king s 
daughter - and she saw how fair and handsome Moses was, and 
she fell in love with him. She then sent to him by an interpreter 
saving "If you swear to me that you will marry me, then I will 
show you how to enter the city". Moses gave her his oath, and 
she showed him the way into the city. He then captured the city 
and destroyed it, while he look the woman in marriage, as he 
had sworn to do, and brought her to Egypi. 

Definitions of philosophy, and other related questions, were 
standard fare of higher education in Late Antiquity and the 
Middle Ages, and many Syriac texts deal with these topics, the 
roots of which are usually to be found in Greek writings ol the 
Alexandrian school of the sixth and early seventh century. The 
extract below is from The Book of Dialogues 11.7 . 

Sixth Question: Why is Philosophy divided up into two 



Sample Passages... 

Reply: Because the soul has two modes of life, according 
to the two i'aculties it possesses by its nature, namely those of 
cognition and of action. For the aim of philosophy is this: to 
adorn the life of the soul. For this reason it has two parts, 
contemplation and action. This is in order that, through action,' 
it might adorn the active life of the soul, and through 
contemplation, it might adorn the cognitive life of die soul. This 
is why philosophy is divided up into two parts. 

Again, we possess by nature faculties of cognition and of 
action. Cognitive ones, seeing that all human beings desire to 
know, and diere is nothing more pleasing and delectable for them 
than to know everything. Take the following example: a person 
is continually asking lor news from all over the place; and he 
wants to get a precise understanding of everything that he sees. 
Thus, when the soul sees /crowd of people in the distance, then 
a person will ask and enquire what is die reason for their gathering 
together; and if he learns, then he is pleased and delimited: 
whereas if he is not told the reason, then he is upset because he 
has been deprived of the knowledge of what has happened. 

Then there is the faculty of action, for neither when we 
are proceeding along happily, nor when we find ourselves thrown 
into difficulty, are we able to rest from action: sometimes we 
will pick up a piece of straw, or a pebble, from the ground; or 
we will pull on a bit of our hair, or else do something else of this 
sort. All the lime we are never without some sort of activity. 

Consequently it is for these reasons that philosophy has 
been divided up into two parts, contemplation and activity. 

(a) Ecclesiastical History 

Barhebraeus' Ecclesiastical History covers the Church of 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
the East as well as his own Syrian Orthodox Church. In the 
following excerpt he describes a contemporary event, the election 
of the Uighur monk Markos as Catholicos, with the name 

In the year 1592 of the Greeks [= AD 1280/1 ], while the 
Catholicos [of the Church of the East] Mar Iohannan Denha 
was on his way down to Baghdad he fell sick during the journey. 
On arrival there he remained in great pain for a few days, and 
then departed this life during the night before Monday 24th 
February, the [first] morning of the Great Fast. While Mar 
Dcnha was still alive two Uighur monks came from China on 
their way to worship in Jerusalem. When they arrived in these 
regions they could not find out how to continue their.joumey, so 
they turned aside to visit Mar Denha. In order to prevent his 
adversary Bar Qaligh going to China, Mar Denha consecrated 
one of the Uighur, or Turkoman, monks as metropolitan lot- 
China, giving him the name Yahballaha. Now when they were 
getting ready to return back home, Denha died. Thereupon the 
Emir Ashot, who was of the same race, told the king of kings 
about Yahballaha, saying, "the Christians want him to be their 
Catholicos: the people of Baghdad too are happy with him", 
hoping that, because he had close connections both in race and 
in language with the Mongols, they will get some benefit from 
him. As a result the royal order went out that he should be 
made Catholicos. Having assembled twenty-four bishops, these 
men went down to Seleucia Ctesiphon and consecrated him 
Catholicos. This Mar Yahballaha was weak in Syriac learning 
and letters, but he was a man with a renown for his religious way 
of life, and he showed great love for the Jacobites, 
(b) Candelabra of the Sanctuary I(PO 22, p.595-7). 

Both ancient and modern translators and exegetes have 
disputed over the meaning of the Hebrew words ruah elohim in 


Sample Passages... 

Gen. 1:2 some taking ruah (Syriac ruha) to refer to the Holy 
Spirit others claiming that the Holy Spirit is not meant, and that 
ruah here simply means 'wind'. Barhebraeus describes the 
different interpretations current in Syriac circles; his observation 
concerning EphrenVs views is entirely correct, and the same point 
that Barhebraeus makes at the end has been made independently 
by modem scholars! In the following section Barhebraeus goes 
on to discuss the physical nature of air, clouds, rain, snow etc. 
Concerning the ruha (Spirit/wind) who was hovering (or 
brooding) over the surface of the water [Gen. 1 :2]. The holy 
Basfl said, m the second homily of his Hexaemeron [Commentary 
on the Sax Days oi Creation], that there was a discussion among 
our predecessors concerning this word ruha here. He himself 
said it was the Holy Spirit, and this is something we should accept 
as our own opinion. He said that he learnt of this understanding 
ol the hovering' from a certain excellent man, a Syrian - for the 
Aramaic language is related to Hebrew. This man said, "The 
Spirit ol God was brooding over the surface of the water so that 
hey might be made ready to give birth to the living soul after its 
kind, m the same manner as a hen which in it love broods over 
he eggs beneath it, keeping them warm, so as to provide life in 
them and instil movement in them". 

Jacob, bishop ofEdessa, concurs with this view, while Mar 
bphrem, m his factual commentary on Genesis, Mar Jacob of 
Serugh in his Hexaemeron, and Theodore the Interpreter of the 
Nestonans, have all said that the ruha in question is not the Holy 
Spim, but this ordinary created wind, consisting of air Mar 
Jacob said: 

There was darkness, and the wind blew over the water, 

supposed Cr£ated Wind ' "^ n0t thC H ° ]y Spirit ' aS has bee,T 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Moses called it 'the wind of the Lord', as has been said, 
something created by God which hovered over creation. 

It is the first opinion which is correct. This is clear from 
the fact that if ruha had not been the Holy Spirit here, it would 
not have been called the ruha of God', for never at all is any 
mention ever made of 'the air of God', or 'the water of God', or 
'the earth, or fire, of God'; whereas it is often spoken of the 
Holy Spirit in this way, as with "You send your Spirit, and they 
are created" [Ps. 104:301- Likewise of the Son, as with "I will 
praise the Word of God" [Ps.56: 11]. Many others have spoken 
in confirmation of this view, but this brief discussion is too short 
for me to mention them. The holy Severus, in his Book against 
the Grammarian, said that the 'Syrian man' was Ephrem. That 
this is not the case is clear from the fact that this saint did not 
hold to this view. 

(c) In his Book of Amusing Stories Barhebraeus collects material 
together from a variety of different sources, ranging from 
sayings of Greek philosophers, through the Desert Fathers, 
to an early eleventh-century collection by Abu Sa ? d al-Abi 
(Barhebraeus' dependence on this last source has only recently 
been pointed out). 
252. One of the teachers used to say, "A large part of 
learning has escaped me, namely, what I was too ashamed to 
leant from people who are my inferiors. Accordingly, my pupils, 
do not consider it a disgrace if you ask those who are your inferiors 
how you may become perfect and accomplished". 

515. A woman enquired of her neighbour, "Why should a 
man be allowed to buy a maidservant and then go and sleep with 
her and do whatever he likes, while a woman is not allowed to 
do any such thing openly?" The neighbour replied, "It is because 
all kings, judges and lawgivers have been men, and so they have 


Sample Passages... 

advocated their own interests, and treated women unjustly". 

'Abdisho ; included in his collection of poems entitled "The 
Paradise' one which takes the form of a dialogue between the 
body and the soul. This was, by his lime, a traditional topic and 
three other poems treating it also survive. 'Abdisho' makes use 
an elaborate alphabetic acrostic, where the penultimate letter 
of each line is the same as the letter of the alphabet which opens 
that particular verse. 

1 . I heard report of a contest taking place between the 
body and the soul; like someone with discernment, I wanted to 
see which of them would hit the mark. 

SOUL [Alaph] 2. The soul says: however much I toil 
offering assistance and cqpfort, yet the body overwhelms me 
with its torrent of horrible actions, and it wearies my nature. 

BODY [Alaph] 3. The body replied: it is neither proper 
nor fitting that I should disclose your evil deeds, in that you have 
suggested to me to revel in all sorts of harmful actions. 

SOUL [Beth] 4. The Son, who has saved us both in his 
love and who feels out the hidden secrets of the heart, is witness 
to me that you have waged a mighty war on me from every side. 

BODY [Beth] 5. In your hands are traps and snares and 
it is you who thrust the simple into the pit. 

Through the multitude of your evil enticements even 
cultivated land will turn into wilderness because of you. 

SOUL [Gamal] 6. It is clear that in your audacity you are 
devising how to break through the alloted boundary, takino captive 
the faculty of desire by means of lust mixed with anger. 

BODY [Gamal] 7. The truth is manifest, without any doubt, 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
that a body that is dead knows no incitement; thus, as long as it 
is sentient, then it is you who incite it. 

SOUL [Dalath] 8. Pure and luminous likewise did the 
Maker create me at the beginning; 

it is your passions, O foul body, that disfigured my state 
when we were joined. 

BODY [Dalath] 9. I am to you as a disciple is to a master, 
or a slave to an owner, in subjugation; this is well testified, and 
you accepted it without any feeling of shame. 

99. ANONYMOUS, History of Rabban Sauma and Yahballaha 

Soon after the arrival in Baghdad of the two Uighur monks, 
Markos and Sauma, from Khan-Baligh [= Peking/Beijing], the 
Catholicos of the Church of the East, Denha III, consecrated the 
former as metropolitan with the name Yahballaha, and the latter g 
as 'General Visitor' (sa'ora). On a subsequent visit to Baghdad 
Mar Yahballaha happens to arrive just after Denha had died. 
The ensuing extract, which describes his election as the new 
catholicos, provides a parallel to the account given by Barhebraeus 
(translated above). 

The following day the fathers assembled to elect a suitable 
person to sit upon the patriarchal Throne. The following were 
present: Maran'ammeh metropolitan of Elam, another 
metropolitan, of Tangut, another of T ir han, another ol the 
mountains, together with the nobles, chief men, secretaries, 
lawyers and doctors in Baghdad. One person said it should be 
this man, another that man. Eventually they all agreed that Mar 
Yahballaha should be head and leader for the Throne ot Selcucia 
Ctesiphon. The reason for his election was this: the kings who 
held the helm of the government of the entire world were 
Mongols, and none of the metropolitans, apart from Yahballaha, 


Sample Passages... 

was acquainted with their way of life, their customs and their 
language. When they told him this, Yahballaha made excuses 
giving as a reason, "lam lacking in education and ecclesiastical 
learning; furthermore my linguistic ability is impaired, so how 
can I do this? I do not even know your Syriac language, and 
this is something universally needed". They persisted in their 
arguments and he finally came round and accepted. Everyone 
gave their consent to him - bishops, priests, nobles, secretaries 
as well as the doctors of Baghdad. 

He then arose and came to the holy Monastery of Mar 
Michael of Tar : el, to see Rabban Sauma. The monks had already 
heard of the decease of the holy father, Mar Denha. On Mar 
YahbaUaha's arrival they received him with joy, and gave him 
encouragement, agreeing that he should be the Catholicos: "It 
was at God's instigation, and the outcome stems from him; so 
the entire creation works to its accomplishment by necessity" 
And when he spoke with Rabban Sauma, the latter said, "The 
whole thing comes from God; you cannot beg off from it We 
should go now to king Abaga, and if he gives permission, we 
will accomplish this". 

So they arose and set off for Adhorbaigan, together with 
the bishops and monks who were accompanying them, since it 
was there that the princes were spending the summer. On 
reaching the king at the Black Mountain"- which is called in 
Persian Siyah Kuh - the emirs ushered them in and Uiey presented 
their request as follows: "May the king live for evert The 
Catholicos has died, and all the Christians have unanimously 
agreed that his place should be taken by the metropolitan who 
has come from the region of the East in order to go to Jerusalem 
What does the king bid?" The king replied, "Worthy of 
admiration is this purity of thought and conscience: God is with 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
those who seek him and who do his will. This man and his 
ompanion have come from the east to travel to »"£ 
now this event has happened to them through the will of God 
We too will carry out the divine will and the request o 
Christians. Let him be their head, and let him sit upon fle 
pWchalThrone". He then took the hand of Mai ^aha 
and said to him, "Take strength and govern. "*"£«£ 
with you and support you". He covered his head wi h ih hood 
(ma>a), lor his hood was lying on his shoulders, and he gave 
n 1 andali - which is a small seat - and likewise a canopy 
lataO which is called sukur in Mongolian: this is something 
S !; raised above the heads of kings and JJ-££j£ 
children, its purpose being to protect them Iron, Ok force c £fae 
, un and of the ram. but most frequently it is provided for ton 
as a sign of honour. He also gave him a P a!za ol gold this is a 

that he has full jurisdiction; together with the great seal fcat had 
belong d to the Catholicoi before him. He furthermore d oca fed 
Mi the considerable expenses that would be required lor his 
consecration as Catholicos. 

They Iten set off a*l came to Baghdad. They went u, 
the (treat church of Kokhe, and Mar Yahhallaha received the 
hefrotonia, or ..position of hands, so that he mtght tahe o d 
of the helm of government of the Church ol the East. Thus he 
sat on the throne of Scleucia Ctesiphon, .surrounded by the 
following: theholyfauaerMarau'ammeh.metropoinanofEtat 

the consecrator and guardtan of the apos.ohc Throne Ma 
Isho'zkha, metropolitan of Soba [= [tarns] and Armenu Ma 
Moshe, metropolitan of Arbela; Mar Gabnel metropolitan o 
Mosul andN.neveh; MarE.ia, metropolitan D aqoqat £B* h 

Garma,; Mar *~-«J*2ES*£ Z IT, 

Mar Jacob, metropolitan ol SamarKana, ivi<u 


Translations into Syriac 

metropolitan of Adhorbaigan, along with the rest of the bishops 
who were twenty-four in number. This consecration took place 
in November, on the first Sunday of the season of Quddash Idta 
[Consecration of the Church], in the year 1593 of the Greeks [= 
AD 1281], when Yahballaha was 37 years old. 


Three examples are given here, one from the Peshitia New 
Testament, a second from the expansive Syriac translation of 
Alhanasius's Life of St Antony, and the third from the sixth- 
century Syriac translation (made from Middle Persian) of the 
Indian collection of stories known as Kalilah and Dimnah. 

(1)1 Peter 3:9-21, fehitta. It will prove instructive to 
compare this with the Revised Standard Version (or some other 
good modern translation) of the Greek New Testament. 

9. For the reason why you have been called is in order 

that you may inherit the blessing. 10. Therefore, whoever wishes 

for life [or: salvation] and desires to see good times, he should 

guard his tongue from evil, and let his lips not utter any deceit. 

H. Let him cross over from evil, and do what is good; let him 

seek for peace, and chase after it. 1 2. For the eyes of the Lord 

are upon the righteous, his ears are [there] to hear them; but the 

Lord's face is [also] upon the wicked. 13. Who will do evil to 

you if you are zealous for what is good? 13. And if you should 

suffer for the sake of justice, blessed are you; and have no fear 

of those who try to frighten you, and do not be upset 15 

Instead, cry "Holy" to the Lord Christ in your hearts, and be 

prepared to make a defence to all who require of you some word 

concerning the hope of your faith, 1 6 [doing so] in humility 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
and in fear, having a good conscience, so that those who speak 
against you, as if against wicked people, may be ashamed as 
people who abuse your beaut ! ful way of life in Christ. 17. For 
it is beneficial for you that, while performing good works, you 
should endure evil, if this is me will of God, n ther than when 
you are doing evil. 18. For Christ too once die 1 For our sins: a 
just person on behalf of sinners, in order to bri ig you close to 
God He both died in the body and came to li : e in spirit. 19. 
And he preached to the souls which were held . i SheoL 20. the 
ones which of old had not been obedient in the days ot Noah, 
when God's patience gave orders that there should be the Ark, 
in the hope of their repentance - but only eight souls entered it 
and were saved amidst the water. .21. You too in that same 
manner [lit.: type] are alive [or: saved] in baptism - not washing 
your body of dirt, but acknowledging God with a pure conscience, 
and the resurrection of Jesus Christ who was raised up to heaven, 
where he is at the right hand of God; and the angels, authorities 
and powers have been sujected to him. 

(2) Some have supposed that the Syriac translation of the 
Life of Antony is a witness to an earlier and more original form 
of the Life than that provided by the extant Greek text attributed 
to St Athanasius. This, however, seems unlikely to be the case, 
and it is much more probable that the Syriac translator was 
providing an expanded paraphrase, rather than a literal translation 
of the work; this type of free translation is characteristic ol several 
fifth-century translations from Greek (sixth- md ..specially 
seventh-century translations tend to keep much more closely to 
iheii-Greek originals). In Chapter 74, translated here, the Syriac 
translator both expands and (unusually) contracts; the expansions 
are denoted by {...}. 

Ch 74- 1 It happened again that there came to him some 
wise men - as they were considered in the world - who were 


Translations into Syriac 

greatly accepted among the Greeks. When {they began} 
demanding from him an enquiry concerning our faith in {our 
Lord Jesus } Christ, 2. wanting to put him in the wrong over the 
matter of the Cross and the preaching (of our Lord}, on seeing 
that they were getting ready for mockery {and insult}, he paid 
no attention to them for a little. Then, {after having gazed at 
them for a long time}, he became angry {in his heart} at the 
falsehood { that resided } in them. He spoke to them through an 
interpreter who translated the words well {from the Egyptian 
into the Greek language } . 

3. {Now he said to them (his at the beginning of his 
utterance } : "Which is more appropriate, that someone should 
confess the Cross, or that someone should believe the adultery, 
{fornication}, and fouLacts with males which have been 
performed by those who arc named v gods' amongst you? What 
is spoken of {and believed} by us is an example and model of 
people to whom death is contemptible {and by whom the world 
is despised } . Whereas your preaching consists in the practice of 
impurity and a willingness towards the foul lusts. 

4. "What then is more beneficial, that it should be believed 
by us that truly with the case of the Son of God {it was not the 
case that he was altered from what he was in his divinity): for 
the sake of the salvation which he undertook for human beings 
he took the body of our humanity {and was commingled with 
our humanity}, so that by the attachment to our humanity he 
might commingle our humanity with his divinity: 5. or, 
alternatively, that we should make God resemble wild animals 
{ and cattle } , and as a result { one would be inclined ) to worship 
the likenesses of wild animals or of a human being, and the earth's 

IThe Greek text has some material (5b, 6, 7a) absent from 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

fee Syriac]. 

7 Now our faith proclaims the coming of Christ for the 
salvation of humanity, { and not that we should have an excuse 
for fornication or falsehood or oppression or gluttony or 
drunkenness or debauchery and other kinds of lechery, as happens 
in the world. For from all these we are bidden and warned to 
keep away, and a sentence of punishment is laid down lor 
everyone who dares transgress in any one of these things. You 
however, by means of words of deceit, toil over works ot 
abomination, while we, relying on the strength and compassion 
of God believe that even this matter of the Cross was easy lor 
him You, however, without discernment, attribute all kinds ol 
hateful actions to your gods, so that you do everything Without 

[The Syriac has nothing corresponding lo 8 in Greek}. 
9 On the subject of the soul, you say that it is the image 
of the mind, but once you have had this good idea, you turn 
round and say of the soul that it is dissolved. And then, with 
this discussion in your thoughts, you also posit that the mind ,s 
divided and changed. 

1 () According to what an i mage is like, it is necessary that 
thus should be that of which the image is, {in that it is a created 
depiction). Now when you think this of the mind, realize that 
you are blaspheming both it and the Father or mind' . 

(3) In the sixth and seventh centuries a number of Middle 
Persian texts, both specifically Christian (such as the Life ol the 
Catholieos and Confessor Mar Aba) and secular, were translated 
into Syriac. The sixth-century translation of Kalilah and Dimnah 
is the earliest extant witness to this very popular cycle ot stones 
outside their Indian homeland. The lost Middle Persian version 


Translations into Syriac 

Syriac ta„ T C; amt,n S tl,cse are wo later 

cc yd v f ab ° Ul " ,e "-" «" f "■* ninety, 

w-s-ssr* ati ° ns ,cspeciaiiy ° r ihe 

— «. simp , d i d n e d • £:;xS„ witKd whereas ihe 


5e;:;: , ;.:i , ; < 'r; n ' ed ''' , possii,,e i ° -* ^°°«™t 

y m I'l^i, S n ° l d ' VidC Up lhe «"■»• for « long M 

from them, each taking a hundred dinars". They buriedT 
remainder among the ronis nfn (w j y the ' 

mose dinars . So they set off together. When thev rnri 


So they rose up and went to a iudpr- Th* „ a 

-— u,o simpteIon beftrc , eju ^ ng ^ : 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
the coins". The judge asked the crafty man for witnesses, to 
which he replied, "I have witnesses". The judge asked, ''Where 
are your witnesses?" 'The tree is my witness", replied the crafty 
man. The judge wondered how a tree could bear witness, but 
nevertheless he appointed a surety for the crafty man, to ensure 
that he would turn up the next day and establish his testimony. 

The crafty man then asked permission from his surety and 
went off home to tell his father everything that had happened: "I 
have taken the coins, and if my father is willing, I shall win the 
case". His father said to him, "And what am I to do?". He 
replied, "The tree is hollowed out, and there is a hole in it; if 
tonight dad gets in the hole and sits inside, then, when I and the 
judge come tomorrow and the judge interrogates the tree, you 
shall say, "These dinars were hidden in my roots: the simpleton 
took them". His father said to him, "Even a wise man with a 
good defence can come to harm, and this defence will not work. 
Take care lest some loss come from this plan, as was the case 
with the heron". He asked, "What was the loss which the heron 
incurred?" His father told him: 

"There was a heron and his mate, and near them lived a 
snake. Whenever they had chicks, the snake would eat them up. 
Since the heron was accustomed to that place it was hard for 
him to change, and in his grief he refused to eat or drink. A 
■ crab resolved to ask him, "What is wrong with you that you are 
sitting here in misery?" The heron told him all that he had 
suffered from the snake. The crab said, "I will show you the 
way to get your revenge on the snake". "What is it?", the other 
asked. The crab showed him a weasel's hole, and said, "Lay a 
few fishes in a row from the weasel's hole to the snake's hole; 
when the weasel comes out to eat the fishes, the snake will also 
come out to eat them". He acted accordingly, and the weasel 
came out of his hole after the fish; the snake met it, and the 


Translations Into Syriac 

weasel killed it, thus delivering the chicks from the snakes. This 
is the reason I told you that a wise person takes heed not to fall 
into harm". 

The crafty man said, "Dad, I've heard all this; but don't 
you be afraid in this mailer". So, in accordance with his son's 
wish, he went out and sat down inside the tree. The following 
day the judge came along and questioned the tree, whereupon 
the crafty man's father spoke from inside the tree, saying 'The 
simpleton took the coins from my roots". The judge was 
astounded and amazed, saying, "Such a thing cannot happen in 
the natural course of events". They made a search and saw the 
hole. The judge peeped in and ordered that it be filled with dry 
straw and set alight. The father was unable to bear the smoke 
and, crying out bitterly, he expired. The judge had him brought 
out, gave the crafty man a beating, and handed over the dinars in 
their entirety to the simpleton, while the crafty man carried off 
his father on a bier. 

[...] There was a poor merchant who came on business to 
some other place, having with him a hundred small iron coins. 
Having no relations there, he deposited them with an acquaintance 
to look after, while he himself set off. On his return, he asked 
his acqainlance for the iron coins. Now the man had sold the 
iron, and spent the proceeds on himself, so he said to the 
merchant, "Mice have eaten the iron". The merchant, not wishing 
to make him afraid or frighten him, said, "Then it is true what 
they say, that there is nothing on four feet or on two that has 
sharper teeth than a mouse. But seeing that this has happened, 
and I have found you yourself safe and sound, I will forget the 
loss which the mice have brought about". The other man was 
delighted that the merchant had been persuaded by his words. 

On being invited that day to eat at his house, the merchant 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
took his friend's son and hid him. His friend said to him, "When 
you took my son, what did you do with him?" The merchant 
replied, "I did not take your son: he followed me, and I saw a 
falcon swoop down and grab him". His friend gave a wail and 
cried out for the king's protection, beating his head and breast, 
saying, "Where has it been seen or heard of that a falcon can 
snatch up a young boy?" The merchant said to him, "Where 
mice can eat a hundred iron coins it would be no surprising thing 
for a falcon to snatch up an elephant". At this his acquaintance 
confessed, "I ate up your iron, and I consumed bitterness. Take 
their value, and give me back my son". 

Just as the sailor rejoices once his ship has reached harbour, 
so does the scribe rejoice at the last line that he writes. 

[This colophon, which is still used by some contemporary 
Syriac scribes, can be traced back to the sixth century in Syriac 
manuscripts; Latin and Greek forms of it also exist, though all 
of these are later than the earliest Syriac example, which is dated 
AD 543]. 





For the most part the following is largely restricted to works 
in English. 

(a) Introductions to Syriac literature 

An initial orientation is given by S.P.Brock, 'An 
introduction to Syriac Studies', in J.H. Eaton (ed.), Horizons in 
Semitic Studies (Birmingham/Sheffield 1980), 1-33; much 
more detailed introductory guidance can be found in the chapters 
on Syriac literature in two very useful handbooks: (1) by 
M Albert, in A.Guillaumont and others, Christianismes orientaux 
(Paris 1993), 297-372; and (2) by P.Bettiolo, in A.Quacqarelli 
(ed), Complement! interdisciplinary di Patrologia (Rome 1989), 
503-603, Introductory booklets covering various aspects of 
Syriac studies are available as part of SEERI's Correspondence 
Course [1990]. 

The standard histories of Syriac literature in western 
languages are (in chronological order): 

- J.S.Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis (3 vols, Rome 1719- 
28; repr. Hildesheim 1975). This monumental work (by a 
Maronite scholar) provided the foundation for all subsequent 
histories of Syriac literature, and although much is now out of 
date, it remains the sole source for a great deal of basic 

- W.Wright, A Short History of Syriac Literature (London 
1 894). Wright had an extensive knowledge of Syriac literature 
as a result of his having catalogued the large collection of Syriac 
manuscripts in the British Museum, and this still remains a useful 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
book for the more advanced student of the subject; it is not 
suitable, however, as an introductory work. 

- R.Duval, La litterature syriaque (3rd ed. Paris 1907); 
this remains the best general introduction. 

- De Lacy O'Leary, The Syriac Church and Fathers 
(London 1909). A summary treatment, and rather outdated. 

- A.Baumstark, Die christlichen Literaturen des Ostens, I 
(Leipzig 1911). The section on Syriac literature is a helpful general 
orientation, and much more readable than the following work. 

- A.Baumstark, Geschichte dersyrischen Literatur (Bonn 
1922). This remains the standard work, indispensible for all 
serious study of the subject; it has by far the most detailed 
coverage (including details of manuscripts), but the presentation 
and cramped German style makes for difficult reading (indeed,' 
it is primarily a work for reference, rather than continuous 

- J.B.Chabot, La litterature syriaque (Paris 1934). Much 
shorter than Duval, but a useful introductory work by a scholar 
who had an exceptionally wide knowledge of Syriac literature. 

- A.Baumstark and A.Rucker, in Handbuch der 
Orientalistikin.Semitistik (Leiden 1954), 169-204. Useful, but 
inevitably rather selective. 

- I. Ortiz de Urbina, Patrologia Syriaca (2nd ed. Rome 
1965). This Latin handbook is an extremely useful work of 
reference; it is clearly set out and has succinct (but now often 
outdated) bibliographies. A French translation (by R.Lavenant), 
bringing it up to date, has been promised. 

- R.Macuch, Geschichte der spat- und neusyrischen 
Literatur (Berlin 1976). This covers literature in both Classical 


Select Bibliography 

and Modern Syriac up to the present day; coverage of Classical 
Syriac is from c. 14th century onwards, the period neglected in 
other histories of Syriac literature. The book is in fact based on 
three important histories of Syriac literature by scholars from Syria 
(E Barsaum, 2nd edn.1956), Iraq (AAbouna, 1970) and Iran 
(P.Sarmas. 1969-70). 

A great deal of information on particular authors can be 
found in the three volumes of A. Voobus' History of Asceticism 
m the Syrian Orient (CSCO Subs. 14, 17,81 (1958, 1960,1988). 

(b) Monographs on some individual Syriac 
authors (in alphabetical order) 

BARDAISAN: HJ.W.Dnjvcrs, Barfaisan of Edessa (Assen 

EARLY WRITERS: R.Murray, Symbols of Church and 
Kingdom: a study in early Syriac tradition (Cambridge 1975)- 
SJ.Beggiani, Early Syriac Theology (Lanham 1 979). 

w T) E ™ REM: S-PJ*™*. ^e Luminous Eye: the Spiritual 
World Vision of St Ephrem (Rome 1985; Kalamazoo 1992)- 
TBou Mansour, La pensee symbolique de saint Ephrem 
(Kaslik 1988). 

JACOB of SERUGH: T.Bou Mansour, La theologie de 
Jacques de Saroug, I (Kaslik 1993). 

L enseignement spirituel de Jean de Dalyatha (Paris 1 990) 
PHILOXENUS: A. de Halleux, Philoxene de Mabboug Sa 
vie, ses cents, sa theologie (Louvain 1963). 

TIMOTHY I: R.Bidawid, Les Lettres du patriarchs 
nestonen Timothee I (Studi e Testi 187, 1956). 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 

(c) Specific topics 

(7) Early History of Syriac Churches 

The following are the main works available in Engbsh (in 
chronological order) 

W.Wigram, An Introduction to the History of the Assyrian 
Church (London 1910). Covers up till the end of the Sasanian 
period; this remains a very helpful introduction. 

W.A.Wigram, The Separation of the Monophysites 
(London 1923). A very detailed account, based on Syriac 
sources, concerning the Syrian Orthodox Church in the sixth 

W.H.C.Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement 
(Cambridge 1972). Developments in Church History in the 
Eastern Roman Empire from the mid 5th century to the Arab 
invasions; primarily based on Greek sources. 

W.G.Young, Patriarch, Shah and Caliph (Rawalpindi 
1974). A very helpful account of the history of the Church of 
the East up to and including the early Abbasid period. 

J.Spencer Trimingham, Christianity among the Arabs in 
Pre-Islamic Times (London 1979). This frequently touches 
on Syriac Church history. 

W.S.McCullough, A Short History of Syriac Christianity 
to the Rise of Islam (Chico 1982). Special attention is paid to 
the Church in the Persian Empire. 

S.HMofiett, A History of Christianity in Asia, I, to 1500 
(San Francisco 1992). Gives extensive coverage to the Syriac 

J.C.England, The Hidden History of Christianity in Asia 


Select Bibliography 

before 1500 (Delhi/Hong Kong 3996. A helpful introduction 

for the general reader. 

In French and German, the following works are 

J.Labourt, Le christianisme dans l'empire perse (Paris 1904). 
This remains the fullest account. 

P.Kawerati, Die jakobitische Kirche im Zeitalter der 
syrischen Renaissance (Berlin 1960). Deals with 12th-13th 

W.Hage, Die syrisch-jakobilische Kirche in fmhislamischen 

Zeit (Wiesbaden 1966). 

J-M.Fiey, Jalons pour une histoire de i'eglise en Iraq 
(CSCO Stibs.36; 1970). Covers the Sasanian period and 
supplements Labourt. * 

, Chretiens syriaques sous les Mongols (CSCO Subs 44 

, Chretiens syriaques sous les Abbasides (CSCO Subs 
59, 1980). 

(2) Topography 

E.Honigmann, Eveques et eveches monophysites au Vie 
siecle (CSCO Subs.2, 1951). 

, Le convent de Barsauma et le patriarcat jacobite 
(CSCO Subs.7, 1954). 

J.B.Segal, Edessa, the Blessed City (Oxford 1971). 
J-M.Fiey, Assyrie chretienne Mil (Beirut 1965-8). 
" , Nisibe,.metropolesyriaque orientale (CSCO Subs.54, 1977). 
" , Communautes syriaques en Iran et Iraq des origiries 

Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
a 1552 (London 1979). 

(3) Spirituality 

S. Abouzayd, Ihidayuta: a study of the life of singleness in 
the Syrian Orient (Oxford, 1993). 

S.Beggiani, Early Syriac Theology (Lanham 1983). 

" , Introduction to Eastern Christian Spirituality: the 
Syriac Tradition (Toronto/London 199 1 ). 

R.Beulay, La lumiere sans forme. Introduction a 1* etude 
de la mystique chretienne syro-orientalc (Chevetogne 1987). 

G.Blum, Mysticism in the Syriac Tradition (SEERI 
Correspondence Course, 7). 

S.P.Brock, The Holy Spirit in the Syrian Baptismal 
Tradition (Syrian Churches Series 9, 1979). 

" , The Syrian Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life 
(Kalamazoo 1987). Contains a collection of translations, with 
brief introductions. 

' : , Studies in Syriac Spirituality (Syrian Churches Series 
13, 1988). Collection of articles reprinted mainly from Sobomost/ 
Eastern Churches Review. 

" , Spirituality in the Syriac Tradition (Moran Etho Series, 
2; 1989). 

S.Griffith, 'Asceticism in the Church of Syria', in 
V.L.Wimbush and R.Valentasis (eds), Asceticism (1995), 220-48. 

A. Guillaumont, Aux origines du monachisme Chretien 
(Spiritualite Orientale 30, 1979). 

'■ and I.H.Dalmais/Syriaque (spiritualite)' in Dictionnairc 
de Spiritualite 14 (1990), 1429- 50. 


Select Bibliography 

19 ATh0Uakara ( ed -)> E ^t Syrian Spirituality (Bangalore 

A.Voobus, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient I- 
III {see under (a)). 

(4) Uagiography 

The standard reference work is P.Peeters, Bibliotheca 
HagiographicaOrientalisCBruxeUes 1914); an updated revision 
OJ the Synac entries in this is in preperation by C.Detienne, to be 
published under the tide Bibliotheca Hagiographica Syriaca 
Another work, of a less technical nature, is also to appear shordy 
J.M.Fiey, Les saints syriaques (Princeton). Entries on several 
Synac saints can be found in Bibliotheca Sanctorum I-XIIT (Rome 

A number of English translations of Lives of Syriac saints 
are available, notably: 

S.P.Brock and S.A.Harvey, Holy Women of d ie Syrian 
Orient (Berkeley 1987). 

E.W.Brooks, John of Ephesus, Lives of the Eastern Saints 
PO 17-19 (1923-4). 

E.A.W.Budge, The Histories of Rabban Hormizd and 
Rabban Bar Tdta (London 1902). 

F.C.Burkitt, Euphemia and the Goth (London 1913). 

R.Doran, The Lives of SymeonSlylites (Kalamazoo 1992). 

(d) Scries of texts; main relevant periodicals and 

Series of texts and monograph series 

Although they never formed a specific series, mention 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
should he made at the outset of the numerous volumes of Syriac 
texts published (at Leipzig, between 1888 and 1910) by the 
Chaldean priest, Father Paul Bedjan (1838-1920). 

- Patrologia Syriaca (PS); only three volumes ever 
appeared (1897, 1907, 1927). The vocalized serto texts are 
accompanied by a Latin translation, and a full index of words is 
provided for each text. 

- Corpus Scriplorum Christianorum Orientalium (CSCO), 
Scriptores Syri (Paris/Lou vain/ Leu ven); the series began in 1903, 
and by now well over 200 volumes of Syriac texts and translations 
have appeared. The texts are all printed in estrangelo: the 
translations are in separate volumes; earlier ones were in Latin, 
but more recent ones are in the main modern European languages. 

- Patrologia Orientalis (PO). This series also began in 1903, 
and many fascicles are devoted to Syriac texts. The script used 
is serto, and the text is accompanied on the same page by a 
translation (Latin in earlier volumes, mainly French in later 


- Woodbrooke Studies, I-VII (1927-1934). These are 
publications by A.Mingana of Syriac (and a few Arabic) texts 
found in manuscripts in the Mingana Collection, Selly Oak 
Colleges, Birmingham, England. English translations are always 

- Gottinger Orientforschungen, Reihe Syriaca (GOFS). 
Many volumes in this series, begun 1971, are publications of 
Syriac texts, most of which are accompanied by a German 

- Barhebraeus Verlag (Monastery of StEphrem. Holland). 
A large number of Syriac texts, literary as well as liturgical, have 
been published by the Syrian Orthodox monastery of St Ephrcm 


Select Bibliography 

in Glane/Losser, in eastern Holland. 

- Moran Etho series (Kouayam; L988-). These are 
primarily monographs, though two volumes contain editions of text. 

Among other monograph series which sometimes have 
contents of Syriac concern are: Orienlaha Christiana Analecta 
(Rome); Oriental Institute of Religious Studies India (Kotlayam); 

Very few periodicals are specifically devoted to Syriac 
studies, hut several frequently have articles of relevance. Those 
which are primarily, or largely, concerned with Syriac studies are: 

-L" Orient Syrien (Paris; 12 vols., 1956-67). Many useful 
articles, some introductory, some more specialized, are to he 
found in these volumes, Edited by Mgr G.Khouri-Sarkis. An 
index to the complete series is to he found in the Memorial to 
G.Khouri-Sarkis (Louvain, 1969). 

- Melto (Kaslik; 1-5; 1965-9) and Parole de 1' Orient 
(Kaslik; 1-; 1970-). Initially designed as a successor to L' Orient 
Syrien, Melto and its successor Parole de I' Orient include many 
important publications of Syriac texts, as well as studies. More 
recent volumes also cover Christian Arabic studies. An index to 
vols 1- is to be found in 

- Journal (Bulletin) of the Syriac Section (Corporation) of 
the Iraqi Academy (Baghdad; 1- 1975- ); the majority of articles 
are in Arabic. 

- The Harp: A Review of Syriac and Oriental Studies 
(Kottayam; 1- ; 1987-}. Papers from the series of international Syriac 
conferences organised by SEERI are also published in The Harp. 

Periodicals whose coverage is much wider, but which often 
include articles relevant to Syriac literature, are: Analecta 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Bollandiana (1882- ), dealing with hagiography; Le Museon 
(1882- ) with index for 1882-1931 in vol.44; index for 1932- 
1973 by G.Lafontainc (1975); Revue de l'Orient Chretien 
(1896-1946), with indexes at the end of every ten volumes; 
Oriens Christianas (1901-), with index for 1901-1986 by 
H.Kaufhold (1989); Orientalia Christiana Periodica (1935- ), 
with index for 1960- 1984 in vol.52 (1986); Aram (1989-). 


The only encyclopaedia devoted solely to Syriac studies is 
in Arabic (with Syriac title Hudra d-seprayuta suryayta), of which 
only the first volume, covering part of alif, has appeared (Baghdad 
1990); much of relevance can be found in the Encyclopedic 
Maronite, of which again only one volume (covering A) has so 
far appeared (Kasliic 1992). The following more general 
encyclopedias and dictionaries often have good articles on Syriac 
authors: in English, Encyclopedia of the Early Church, in two 
volumes (Cambridge 1992); E.A.Livingstone, Oxford Dictionary 
of the Christian Church, in a single volume (3rd edn, 1997); 
Dictionary of Eastern Christianity (Oxford, forthcoming); 
Encyclopaedia Iranica (6 volumes to date, A-D; in French. 
Dictionnaire de Spiritualite (1932-1995, 17 volumes), 
Dictionnaired'Histoire etde Geographie Ecclesiastique (1912- 
, 26 volumes to date, reaching only the letter I!); and in German: 
Kleines Worterbuch des christlichen Orients (1975), with a French 
translation (Turnhout 1 99 1 ); Lexikon fur Theologie und Kirche 
(2nd edn. 1993- ); 5 volumes to date, reaching K (Syriac authors 
are rather well represented); Marienlexikon (1988-1994), in 6 
volumes; TheologischeRealenzyklopadie (1976- ): 26 volumes 
to date, reaching P. 


Select Bibliography 

(e) Collected volumes 

Since 1 972 there have been Syriac Conferences every four 
years; the proceedings have been published in Orientalia 
Christiana Analecta (OCA) as follows: 

[I] Symposium Syriacum 1972 (ed. I. Ortiz de Urbina; 
OCA 197, 1974); 

II Symposium Syriacum 1976 (ed. F.Graffin and 
A.Guillaumont; OCA 205, 1978); 

m Symposium Syriacum 1 980 (ed R.Lavenant; OCA 221, 1983); 

IV Symposium Syriacum 1984 (cd. H.J.W.Drijvers, 
R.Lavenant and others; OCA 229 (1987): 


V Symposium Syriacum 1988 (ed. R. Lavenant; OCA 236, 

VI Symposium Syriacum 1992 (cd. R.Lavenant; OCA 247, 

The following contain contributions wholly or largely 
concerned with Syriac studies (in chronological order): 

Gotiinger ArbeiUcreis fur syrische Kirchengeschichte (eds), 
Paul de Lagarde und die syrische Kirchengeschichte (Gottingen 

A.Dielrich (ed), Synkrctismu.s im syrisch-persischen 
Kulturgebiet (Gottingen 1975). 

N.Garsoian, R.Thomson, T.Mathews (eds), East of 
Byzantium: Syria and Armenia in the Formative Period 
(Washington DC 1982). 

M.Schmidt (ed.), Typus, Symbol, Allegoric be den 
ostlichen Vatem und ihren Parallelen im Mittelalter (Regensburg 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Collected articles, Festschriften and Memorial volumes (in 
alphabetical order) 

(J.Assfalg), Lingua Restituta Orientalis: Festgabe fur 
J.Assfalg (ed. R.Schulz and M.Gorg; Wiesbaden 1990). 

S.PBrock, Syriac Perspectives onLate Antiquity (London 1984); 

, Studies in Syriac Christianity (Aldershot 1992) 

( " ), A Festschrift for Sebastian Brock (ed.S.Abouzayd) 
= Aram 5(1993). Halleux, Patrologie et ecumenisme. Recueil d'etudes 
(Louvain 1990). 

H.J.W.Drijvers, East of Antioch (London 1984). 

' , History and Religion in Late Antique Syria (Aldershot 

J-M.Fiey, Commtmautes syriaques en Iran et Iraq des 
origines a 1552 (London 1979). 

( " ), In Memoriarn Jean Maurice Fiey o.p. 1914-1995 = 
Annales du Departement des Leltres Arabes, Universite Saint 
Joseph, 6-B( 199 1-2 [1996]). 

(F.Graffin), Melanges offerts aii R.P.Francois Graffin = 
Parole de l'Orient 6/7 (1978). 

(A.Guillaumont), Melanges Antoine Guillaumont: 
Contributions a Tetude des christianismes orientaux (Geneva 1988). 

(W.Hagc), Syrische Christentum weltweit. Studien zur 
syrischen Kirchengeschichte. Festschrift W.Hage (ed. 
MTamcke, W.Schwaigert,E.Schlarb; Minister 1995). 

(G. Khouri-Sarkis), Memorial Mgr G.Khouri-Sarkis (ed. 
F.Graffin; Louvain 1969). 


Select Bibliography 

(A. Van Roey), After Chalccdon: Studies in Theology and 
Church History (ed. C.Laga, J.A.Munitiz, L. Van Rompay; 
Orientalia Lovaniensa Analecta 18, 1985). 

(A.Voobus), A Tribute to Arthur Voobus (ed. R.Fischer; 
Chicago 1977). 

(W.Strothmann), Erkenntnisse und Mcinungen II (ed 
G.Wiessner; GOFS 17, 1978). 

(f) History of Syriac studies 

An overview of Syriac studies in Europe is given by 
S. P. Brock, The development of Syriac studies', in K.Cathcart 
(ed.), The Edward Hincks Bicentenary Lectures (Dublin 1994), 
94-1 13. For surveys of Syriac studies in recent decades, see 
S.P.Brock, 'Syriac studies in the last three decades: some 
reflections', VI Symposium Syriacum (OCA 247, 1994), 13- 
29, and A. de Halleux, 'Vingt ans d'etude critique des Eglises 
syriaques", in R.Taft (ed.), The Christian East: its Institutions 
and Thought (OCA 251, 1996), 145-79. 

Cg) Bibliography 

Almost complete coverage of western publications on 
Syriac literature can be found in two books: ( 1 ) for publications 
of texts and studies up to c.1960: C.Moss, Catalogue of Syriac 
Books and Related Literature in the British Museum (London 
1962); this is arranged alphabetically by author (ancient and 
modern); and (2) for publications for the period 1960-1990, 
S.P.Brock, Syriac Studies: a Classified Bibliography (1960-1990) 
(Kaslik 1996); this is arranged alphabetically by Syriac author 
and subject, with an index of names of modern authors. (The 
latter work was originally published in four parts, in Parole de 
1' Orient 4 (1973) [for 1960-70], 10 (1980/1) [for 1971-80], 14 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
(1987) [ for 1981-1985], and 17 (1992) [lor 1986-90]). A 
further bibliography, to cover 199 1 - 1 995 is forthcoming (in Parole 

Ch) Syriac manuscript collections 

An invaluable guide to Syriac manuscript collections is 
provided by A.Desreumaux and F.Briquel-Chatonnet, Repertoire 
des bibliolheques etdes catalogues de manuscrits syriaques (Paris, 
1991). For illustrated manuscripts there is a standard work by 
J.Leroy, Les manuscrits syriaques a peimures (2 vols, Paris, 1964). 

Almost all surviving Syriac manuscripts which are older 
than about the 1 1th century derive ultimately from the Syrian 
monastery in the Nitrian Desert, in Egypt, where they were 
collected by the early tenth-century abbot, Moses of Nisibis: a 
few of these manuscripts still remain in tbe monastery (now Coptic 
Orthodox), the majority having been acquired by either the 
Vatican Library in the 18th century, or the British Museum in 
the 19lh century. (The oldest dated Syriac manuscript was written 
in Edessa in November AD 411). For Syriac manuscripts in 
India, see J. P.M. van der Ploeg, The Christians of St Thomas in 
South India and their Syriac Manuscripts (Bangalore 1983). 

(i) Grammars and Dictionaries 

Introductory Grammars 

Several are available in English, notably: 

T.H.Robinson, Paradigms and Exercises in Syriac 
Grammar (4th edn, Oxford 1968); this covers the basic 

grammar reasonably well, but the exercises are very dull. Serto 
script is used. 

J.Healey, First Studies in Syriac (Sheffield 1980); this 
otherwise helpful introduction (with good exercises) rather 


Select Bibliography 

gives out when it comes to the weak verbs. There is a 

selection of annotated texts at the end. The serto Syriac text is 


T.Muraoka, Classical Syriac for Hebraists (Wiesbaden 
1987). This will be especially useful for those who come to 
Syriac with some knowledge of Hebrew. It contains exercises 
and uses the serto script. A revised edition is to appear shortly. 

W.M.Thackston, Introduction to Syriac: An elementary 
grammar with readings in Syriac (Harvard University, Dept. of 
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 1992). This excellent 
work has not been published, but xerox copies can be obtained 
from he relevant Department at Harvard University. The Syriac 
is unvocalized, but transcriptions are given as well. 

In other languages^nention might be made of A.Ungnad, 
SyrischeGrammatik (Munich 1913; reprinted Hi ldesheim 1992); 
L.Palaeios, Grammatica Syriaca (Rome 1954); and J-B.Frey, 
Petite grammaire syriaque (Fribourg 1 984). Many introductions 
have been produced within the Syriac Churches for the purpose 
of teaching children (and others) Syriac as a liturgical and/or as 
a spoken language, e.g. Abrohom Nouro, Suloko, I (St Ephrem 
Monastery, Holland, 1989); A.El-Khoury, Companion (Beirut 

Reference Grammars 

The standard reference grammars are: 

R.Duval, Traite de grammaire syriaque (Paris 1881). 

Th.Noldeke (tr. J.A.Crichton) Compendious Syriac 
Grammar (London 1904): a reprint (Darmstadt 1966) of the 
German second edition ( 1 898) contains some supplements, and 
contains an index of passages quoted. 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Two useful grammars of an intermediary size are: 

CBrockclmann, Syrische Grammatik (Leipzig 1 899, with 
many subsequent editions); this contains a good selection 

of texts, for which a separate Syriac-English glossary was 
provided by M.H.Goshen-Goustein (Wiesbaden 1970). 

L.Costaz, Grammaire syriaque (2nd edn., Beirut 1964). 


The two most practical dictionaries for ordinary use arc: 

J.Payne Smith (Mrs Margolioulh), A Compendious Syriac 
Dictionary (Oxford 1903, with many reprints). This is 

arranged alphabetically, rather than by Syriac (trilitteral) 
root, and so is much more convenient for the less experienced 
reader of Syriac. It is especially helpful for phrases and 

L.Costaz, Dictionnaire syro-francais-arabe-anglais (Beirut 
1963, repr. 1986). This handy Syriac-French-Arabic- 

English dictionary is arranged by root and covers all but the most 
specialized vocabulary. 

A Concise Syriac-English, English-Syriac Dictionary, 
compiled by G.Kiraz and S.PBrock, is in the course of 
preparation; the arrangement will be alphabetic. 

None of the above give any references to passages in Syriac 
writers (sometimes a matter of importance and interest); for 
these one needs to consult two more extensive dictionaries: 

CBrockclmann, Lexicon Syriacum (2nd edn., Halle 1928). 
Syriac-Latin, arranged by root. This only gives a small 

number of phrases and idioms, but is especially good for 
references to rarer words. The first edition (1 895) has a Latin- 
Syriac index, but in the second edition page numbers only are 


Select Bibliography 

given for the Syriac, and so one has to look up the entry each 

R.Payne Smith. Thesaurus Syriacus, 2 volumes (Oxford 
1879, 1901). Syriac-Lalin, arranged by root. This 
magnificent work (and exceptionally fine piece of printing) gives 
ample quotations of phrases and idioms (many of which are taken 
over in his daughter's Compendious Syriac Dictionary, but 
without the references). 

A Supplement to the Thesaurus of R.Payne Smith was 
published by J.Payne Smith (Oxford, 1927), where the entries 
(Syriac-English) are arranged alphabetically, rather than by root. 
This is based on texts published subsequent to the Thesaurus. 
In view of the many further new texts that have been published 
since the date of these dictionaries, a further supplement is very 
much a desideratum, ifaut it would be a formidable task to 
undertake. There is also a valuable Syriac-Syriac dictionary by 
T.Audo, Dicttonnaire de la langue chaldeenne (Mosul 1 897, repr. 
St Ephrem Monastery 1985). 






(Numbers refer to listing in sub-sections A-D; an asterisk * 
indicates that an excerpt is translated in Section VII) 

Abdisho'barBrika 96* 

Abraham bar Lipeh 52 

Abraham of Nathpar 38 

Abraham bar Dashandad 68 

Afram, Gabriel F 

Ahikar 10* 

Ahudcmmeh 37* 

Aksenoyo (Philoxenos) 22* 

Alexander the Great, verse homily on 49 

Anonymous chronicles 25*, 33, 36*, 53, 69*, 93* 

Anonymous commentaries 63, 8 I 

Anonymous literature 5th cent. 17*, 18*; 6th cent. 39*; 7lh 

cent. 49,53,59* 
Anton. of Tagrit 77* 
Aphrahat 11* 
Babai of Nisibis (see 43) 

Babai the Great 43* 

Balai 13 

Bar 'Ebroyo/Bar Hebraeus 95* 

Bardaisan 4* 

Barhabdbeshabba ' Arbaya 40 

Barhadbeshabba of Halwan 41 

Barsaum, Ephrem F 

Basil Ishaq Gobeyr E 

Basileios Shem'un of Tur 'Abdin E 

Behnam, Paulos F 

Book of Steps 13* 

Causa Causaami 84* 

Cave of Treasures 39* 

Cynllona 14 


Index of Authors 
CyrusofEdessa 3i* 
Dadisho' 57* 
Daniel of Salah 30* 
David the Phoenician E 
'Diyarbekir Commentary ' 63 
Dionysius bar Salibi 87* 
DioscorusofGozarto 98 
Dolabani, Philoxenus Yuhanon F 
Elia 65 
Elias 29 

Elijah of Anbar 83* 
Elijah in Abu Halim 88 
Elijah of Nisibis 86 
Elyas.GhattaMaqdasi F 
Emmanuel bar Shlhhare 85 
Ephrem 12* 
Fa'yeq.Na'um F 
Gabriel, Paulos F 

Gabriel of Qatar 51 

George (pscudo-) of Arbela 78* 

George bishop of the Arabs 62* 

Giwargis Ward a 92 

Gregory of Cyprus 48 

Hagiography 18*, 29, 34*, 39, 44*, 49, 60, 80*. 89< 

IohannanbarZo'bi 90 

Iohannan- see John 

Isaac of Antioch 23* 

Isaac of Nineveh 55* 

Isaiah of Beth Sbirina E 

IshaqSbadnaya E 

Isho'barnun 72* 

Isho'dadofMcrv 75* 

Isho'dnah 80* 

Isho'yahbll 45 


Brief outline of Syr. Lit. 
Isho'yahb III 54* 
Jacob Seveiits bar Shakko 94* 
Jacob of Serugh 20* 
Jacob of Edessa 61* 
JobofEdessa 73* 
JohnoftheScdre 46 
John of Ephesus 34* 
John Saba 66* 

John the Solitary (John of Apamea) 1 6* 
John bar Pen kaye 58 
John of Dalyatha 66* 
JohnofDara 74* 
Joseph II E 
Joseph Hazzaya 67* 
'Joshua the Stylite', Chronicle 25* 
Khamis bar Qardahe 97 
Khuzistan Chronicle 53 
Liber Graduum 13* 
Mara, Letter of 9 
Martyrius/Sahdona 44* 
Mamthaol'Tagril 47 
Mas'ud E 

Melito the Philosopher 7 
Menander, Sentences of 8 
Methodius, pseudo- (Apocalypse of) 59* 
Michael die Great 89* 
MoshebarKepha 82* 
Narsai 19* 
Nonnus of Nisibis 76 
Nuh E 

Peter of Kallinikos 35 
Philoxenos 22* 

Philoxenos Yuhanon Dolabani F 
Rabban Sauma, History of 99* 



l \ IV 




Index of Authors 

Rahmani, Ephrem F 
Sahdona/Martyrius 44* 

Sargis bar Wahle E 
Sergius the Stylite 64 ^ 

SereiusofResh'aina 27* 

Severus Sebokhi 50* 

ShenV on the Graceful (d-Taybuiheh) 56 

Shcm'un ill' Beth Arsham 28 
Steibhalmaran 42 
Simeon the Poller 21 
Solomon, Odes of 5* 
Solomon of Bosra 91* 

Stephen bar SwUiaili 26 

Symmachus 24 

T'omaAudo F t 

Theodore bar Koni 70* 

Thomas of Edessa 32 

Thomas of Marga 79* 

Thomas, Acts of 6* 

Timothy I 71* 

Timothy 11 100 
Yeshu'ofBethSbirina E 

Zacharias Rhetor (Pseudo-1 36* 

Zuqnin Chronicle 69* 



■■ ■ ■ ■ ,- .. , 

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library 


5 0844 



114999 4 



1. THE HARP: a review of Syriac and Oriental Studies, 
3 issues a year. 

Vols l-IX have already been published; 1987-1936. 

* Vol. X is in preparation. This contains the papers of 
eminent scholars in the field of Syriac Studies. 

2. 'MORAN ETHO' series: monograph series: occasional 


1. Wolfgang Hage (University of Marburg, Germany) 
Syriac Christianity in the East. 

2. Sebastian P. Brock (Oxford University, U. K.) Spirit- 
uality in the Syriac Tradition. 

3. J. P. M. van der Ploug (University of Neijmegen, 
Nederlands) The Book of Judith, Syriac Text and 
English Translation. 

4. Sebastian P. Brock, Burial Service for Nuns (West 
Syrian Liturgy), Syriac Text with translation. 

5. Paul S. Russel (U.S.A.): St. Ephraem the Syrian and 
St. Gregory the Theologian Confront the Arians. 

6. Sebastian Brock: Bride of Light. 

7. Sidney H. Griffith (The Catholic University of 
America): Syriac Writers on Muslims and the Reli- 
gious Challenge of Islam. 

8. Alison Salvesen (England): The Exodus Commentary 
of St. Ephrem.